Today, the society constantly judges every aspect of people’s life. The freedom to live the way one wants is in most cases limited by opinions of others. The setting of the film Brokeback Mountain takes place in the conservative 1960s where the idea of two male falling in love was next to impossible. The main characters in the film, Jack and Ennis, fall in-love with each other. However, they cannot express their feelings because of the society’s views on homosexuality. The two face difficult situations as they try to understand their love and desires. Nevertheless, they try to achieve satisfaction in their relationship in spite of fear, rejection, and cultural stigma. This film’s main theme is how love can cause loneliness in an age where freedom to express one’s sexuality is limited, and it is convincingly conveyed by the use of symbols, lights, and shots.
Meaning of the Film
Brokeback Mountain is a film adaptation of the storybook written by Annie Proulx. The film has received numerous reviews, some of which discussing whether it is a story of homosexuality or just another love story. The aspects of self-identity, sexuality, loneliness, and love are the main themes of the film. However, from a viewer’s perspective, the story appears to be a love story with an interesting twist. The two main characters are heterosexuals who act differently when they are around each other. They secretly admire each other with a passion but fail to reveal their feelings due to the fear of prejudice of the society. They try to live their lives separately. However, even after they are married, they discover that they can never live worlds apart. Therefore, they sneak away for short intimate sessions in the wilderness. However, the secret meetings in the mountains fail to eliminate their feelings of emptiness, misery, and frustrations. The two finally destroy their lives along with that of their families. Ennis is divorced while Jack secretly seeks love and affection from other men, and he is finally murdered after he is discovered to be gay.
The film provoked different views of critics because it raises the questions of issues affecting the society, such as homosexuality, prostitution, and extramarital affairs. Other interesting topics criticized in the film include the performances of the actors. Some see the film acting commendable while others disapprove. For instance, Marcy Dermansky in her review accuses Jake Gyllenhaal (Jack) of not being convincing as a cowboy. She says, “He tries so hard, he practically screams” (Dermansky). However, she enjoyed how the directors of the film managed to create the two words of the characters. She states, “Lee spares no expense in getting the perfect visuals” (Dermansky).
Thematic and Technical Interpretation of the Film
As mentioned earlier, the film takes place in the 1960’s where homosexuals are unacceptable. It shows the struggles of the two main characters in finding true love in each other and, at the same time, in keeping their marriages. The film focuses on the life of the characters. Hence, it is universal and can apply to anyone. The viewers are in a position to understand the characters and in some way relate to their life. Moreover, they can identify themselves with characters, not necessarily based on their sexual feelings, but based on their desires to accomplish impossible things.
The film is important because it shows the audience what victims of love experience because of affairs in the society. The wives of Ennis and Jack are crucial characters in the development of the film. When Alma (Jack’s wife) discovers that her husband is gay, she hesitates to call him from his ‘fishing trips.’ Additionally, Jack’s parents are also affected by their son’s sexual orientation. For instance, when Ennis goes to Jack’s parents to ask for his ashes and take them to the mountain as he had requested, Jack’s father sits motionless and appears to show his denial of his son’s sexual identity.
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The setting, lights, symbols, and flashbacks help to shape the characters and connect what is happening in the film with real life situations. The film is full of shots that were made with thorough attention and thoughts. Directors managed to execute the scenes beautifully, evoking different feelings and emotions of the viewers. The shots further set the mood and the tone of the film. Moreover, many compositions and editing techniques were used to represent different scenes that assisted the directors in showing different worlds, distances, relationships, and unities. For instance, in many scenes, Ennis is shown in mirror reflections, portraying his double life.
Moreover, the film uses many symbols in its development. One such example is the use of Brokeback Mountain. The word “Brokeback” represents the things that the two men experience in the summer of 1963. It shows the feelings and experiences lost. For instance, years later, Jack says, “what we got now is the Mountain” to refer to their emotions and feelings. Additionally, it represents struggles, acceptance, the past, the present, and death. In the postcard that Ennis makes for his dead lover, the Brokeback Mountain is used as a tomb in which their love ends. He also tries to retrieve Jack ashes from his parents so that he can scatter them in the Mountain as Jack had wished.
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Film Director’s Techniques and Style Examples
The film succeeds in representing the two main characters in a frame depicting their distant yet close relationship. The directors accomplish this by using the foreground and background. An example of this technique can be seen at the beginning of the film where Ennis and Jack are standing in a small room. Jack is at the back while Ennis is at the forefront. It shows the actual spacing between the characters but, on the screen, the two are visually brought together by the two-dimensional plane. Additionally, the directors use the same technique in the scene on the Mountain where Jack and Ennis cut a log. Again, the characters are shown as one being in front of the other. They tend to overlap each other at a given point on the screen, yet they are not touching each other.
Another characteristic of the style used by the directors in the film is the use of color and lights to represent tones, atmospheres, and moods of the main characters. As mentioned above, the Mountain scenes use bright, vibrant, and lively colors. The sky is always blue, trees are green, waters are clear, and the sun is always shining. The scenes of the characters’ family setting, on the other hand, are dull and often shown in shades of white and brown colors. However, as the film progresses, Jack scenes begin to have more color as he becomes close to his wife and family. For instance, during the Thanksgiving dinner, his house is filled with bright colors. He also acquires a red truck and begins to wear bright colored clothes. This technique is used to show the two worlds of the characters. The two men are happy, lively, and free when in the mountains. At home, they are sad, depressed, and lonely. Consequently, the use of color creates a sense of contrast between the life in the mountain and at home.
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The film Brokeback Mountain takes the audience through the life of two men attracted to each other. It takes place during the 1960s when the idea of same sex was prohibited. The story is significant because it shows the viewers some of the things they struggle with in life. It focuses on self-identity, family, relationships, love, and loneliness. However, the film has received much criticism. Some people agree with the themes while others are at the crossroad of deciding if the storyline is that of gay relationships or true love. The directors have used many styles and techniques in the development of the plot, including the use of colors and lights and shots. These techniques helped them to convey the theme that love can cause loneliness in an age where expressing one’s sexuality is limited.