Sunday, January 29, 2006

Jack, I swear ...
Despite the hype I'm not sure I was expecting much from this film, perhaps because as a love story it probably isn't the kind of film I would usually go and see. However, my prejudices were proved wrong, and I was mesmerised within the first few minutes. The first scene sets the tone for the rest of the film - it is subtle and silent. Dialogue is sparse throughout, which is more effective in evoking atmosphere than any conversation would be. Silence has many different purposes. It is a feature of Ennis's character, and of the relationship between Jack and Ennis, who communicate at irregular intervals by post rather than telephone. There is Ennis's obvious need to keep silent about this relationship, resulting from the brutal murder of a gay man that he witnessed as a child, and there is the danger that is evoked by Jack's own unwillingness to remain silent about his feelings. The lack of dialogue between Ennis and Jack heightens the intensity of their relationship, and also the pain that is evoked at the end of the film. Alongside silence, this film also focusses on what goes unsaid. There are four primary female characters - Ennis's wife and eldest daughter, and Jack's wife and mother. As the film focusses on Ennis and Jack's relationship with each other, these characters are necessarily sidelined, and remain quiet throughout. Nevertheless they are wise and perceptive characters, each of the women appearing to understand more about Jack and Ennis than even the two cowboys will admit to. Furthermore there is a certain parallel between the situations. Every character's life has been shaped by the unsatisfactory relationships hoisted upon it by societal expectations, and there is an ingrained pessimism as the film ends with Ennis's daughter's own prospective marriage. Brokeback mountain without a doubt portrays a beautiful relationship between Jack and Ennis, but it also suggests that there is no place for such a pure love in the modern world.

I found the film really fascinating, and am keen to read the short story it was based on. It evoked the same type of bleakness coupled with humour that I found in 'That Old Ace in the Hole' and 'The Shipping News', also by Annie Proulx, and it was much more entertaining as a film than the badly cast 'The Shipping News'. Glad I went to see it and would recommend it to anyone as the four golden globes it recently received were well deserved.


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