As debate breeds fire among the acolytes of clashing causes, art tends to meddle in, not looking for a solution but raising questions, whether it be in political matters like Steven Spielberg’s Munich, or in social concerns such as the sexuality of its members, like Brokeback Mountain has been said to do.
Unfortunately the film doesn’t have the required sensibility that Gus Van Sant would have certainly given to it. His meditative style and his concern for the homosexual rights would have given this film a much needed dose of passion, so, why the Eastern director, Ang Lee, ended up working on this project is beyond any reasoning but can only be explained by Matt Damon’s refusal to participate. Lee is indeed a man who can play the part of a poet such as his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s final scene suggests it
it was a very beautiful film overall, but Brokeback Mountain, in spite of the perfect work by most of its collaborators, seems stalled and rambling.
After this brief eulogistic paragraph in favor of Van Sant, it must be said that this story of a couple of cowboys who meet in 1963 in Wyoming and hide their love for each other throughout 20 years of their lives suffers greatly from disjointed scenes that tend to stumble into nowhere. As in any epic film, such as this one should aspire to be, the events in the character’s lifelines are present, but they are treated as if they were rather unimportant and only a few occurrences actually affect the main storyline and the way the protagonists, beautifully played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, change over time. Only a few scenes achieve a great beauty, but when they do so, it’s thanks to the wonderful cast and crew, not to its director, whose decision of making the beginning painfully slow certainly affects the sensibility of the viewer throughout the rest of the film.
During the first act, scenes of nature and sheep are constantly interweaved in a poetic manner, but they never get even close to the works of directors like Andrei Tarkovsky or Akira Kurosawa, whose films move as slow, but never as boring, since the images they show always have a point to make. That’s also a huge flaw within the film, it doesn’t know what it’s saying, since the relationship between Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar is never questioned because of its very nature, but because of its collateral effects; for instance, they lose the jobs that led them into meeting each other not entirely for being seen tenderly fooling around by their boss, but for losing a sheep to a coyote’s attack, and though it seems like a mere excuse, no one would hire a couple to make love while they should be sheepherding.
Another important aspect of the film’s self conscious nature lies within the relationship Jack and Ennis share with their wives: they are both deeply hurt and transformed by their husbands’ secret, so they’re certainly not put in a good light, a feeling added by Anne Hathaway’s and Michelle William’s flawless and moving performances. So in the end, pity sides with the supporting cast rather than the main characters whose relationship isn’t confronted enough for being a homosexual one, but for being promiscuous.
The fact that the main characters’ homosexuality doesn’t seem to be central
it is, but it could be stronger could also be making a point by saying that they’re just normal people who should be judged for other reasons rather than for being gay, but it still puts them as the selfish misfits, a situation caused by the lack of background which a normal epic film would have included in order to comprehend some things better, and although Ennis’ story is told in a flashback, it isn’t told in a way that the audience is made to feel his pain, growing up a different person among a conservative environment; it’s as if he had actually forgotten he was homosexual until he met Jack. On the other hand, Jack’s pain and nature are only explained by the end of the film, which doesn’t help a lot.
In conclusion, the film’s main issue is its lack of scope; Lee should have made a film about a great, enduring, castigated love, but he only made a story that could have resulted almost the same way had the couple been heterosexual, and even though Rodrigo Prieto’s images are beautiful and truly express the loneliness of the characters, as well as Gustavo Santaolalla’s haunting score does, Brokeback Mountain relies on everything
including the weak script but its director; a shame truly, since it could have been the defining love story of the 21st century.