Brokeback Mountain tells the story of star-crossed lovers Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal). Both are young men, not even twenty, working in the year of 1963. They meet and fall in love on a sheep-herding job in Signal, Wyoming. The film chronicles the next 20 years of their lives from Ennis marrying Alma Beers (Michelle Williams) to Jack marrying Laureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway). The 20 years that the film takes place over show Ennis and Jack trying to lead a normal life without see…ng each other, but shortly before realizing that they both have a deep connection to one another.
There’s a scene in Brokeback Mountain where Ennis tells Jack about something he saw as a boy. Ennis tells Jack that there were two old guys who were shacked up together. The whole town knew of this. Then one day, they were found beaten to death. Ennis’s father made sure Ennis and his brother saw this possibly as an idea that this is what may occur if you chose this type of life. This scene is quite important because it really shapes and defines the kind of character that Ennis is. Ennis is the kind of character that wants to let his emotions for Jack out but we learn that he was taught to hate his own feelings. Years after first meeting Jack, Ennis tells Jack “Why don’t you let me be? It’s because of you, Jack, that I’m like this—nothing, and nobody.” Ennis blames Jack for his problems, but the center of his problem is that Ennis loves Jack but can’t find a way to deal with that fact.
I’ve read numerous reports declaring that Brokeback Mountain is simply a gay cowboy film. Not only does this statement make no sense, but that statement actually does injustice to the marvel that the film truly is. The film presents a story that is about two men, a story that has been labeled by religious and ethnic groups as horrible and forbidden. The story could have easily been about two women, ala Boys Don’t Cry and we would have not thought that much of it. We’re given two characters from opposite worlds that meet, fall in love and declare to each other “You know I ain’t queer right? Yeah, me neither.”
The film is based on a short story by E. Annie Proulx. Proulx, after the film was released, declared that she was amazed at the work that Ang Lee had done with the film. Ang Lee could have simply presented a story about two gay cowboys who fall in love. Instead he focuses so much on the characters of Ennis and Jack that the viewer becomes engrossed by the events on the screen before them. I would say that, while both seem to love each other, Jack is more of the ‘gay’ character. In one of the closing scenes, where Ennis visits his bedroom, we find out quite a lot about the type of childhood that Jack lead. A type of childhood where he, kind of like Ennis, kept a majority of his thoughts and feelings inside of himself rather than telling others. Maybe now we can see why Lee chose these ‘star-crossed’ characters who, at first glance, seem very different but really aren’t once we learn more about them.
Looking into Ang Lee’s film history, we see that Lee has quite the diverse resume. He has directed films about gays (1992’s The Wedding Banquet), films about his culture (2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), films about misunderstood members of society (2003’s Hulk), and now 2005’s Brokeback Mountain that has a tagline of “Love is a Force of Nature”. All of the films truly exemplify the type of director Lee in that all the aforementioned films focus on the characters Lee creates. All of the characters have so many more layers than a first glance definition.
With the film Brokeback Mountain, I believe that Ang Lee has created the perfect film. The film has characters and themes that contain such rich emotion and such utter brilliant style. Going into Brokeback Mountain, I expected quite a lot considering Lee’s resume. The end result was a film that everyone should see as Brokeback Mountain is so sharp in raw emotion that it should easily earn in it’s place in anyone’s book as a true modern love story.
Brokeback Mountain is presented in a Widescreen Aspect Ratio of 1:85:1. The image quality is simply great. Colors are vibrant, clear, crisp, and filling especially in the outdoor scenery (see around 8 minutes in). Lush dark grays fill the outdoor color palette while flesh tones were just exemplary. The simple outfits exemplified the simplicity Ennis and Jack had in their lives, while the grayish tones of the Wyoming town showcase the trouble that is to come (in relation to the Ennis’s wife finding out). This is quite the nice transfer for such a low-budget film.
We’re given a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound Audio Track that captures all the raw emotions and scenery that the film showcases. Dialogue is easily understood from the frontal range while the rears only really showcases simply things like the audience clapping during bull rides and the booming thunder before an oncoming storm. I must mention Gustavo Santaolalia’s beautiful score particularly the selection entitled The Wings that beautifully captures the calm, subdued life of this Wyoming town.
Some interesting features here, but it’s a true shame that there is no commentary by Ang Lee or any of the actors. This makes me wonder if a better edition will be released down the road.
- On Being a Cowboy: This feature goes through the steps the actors took to get the rodeo scene downpat.
- Directing From The Heart: Ang Lee: This is one of the more interesting feature on this disc. The feature has many interviews. All the interviews see the cast praising the work of Lee.
- From Script to Screen: Interviews with Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana: This feature has Larry McMurtry (executive producer) & Diana Ossana (producer) speak about the process of bringing the film from a basic script adapted by a novel to the actual big screen. McMurtry & Ossana really inform us that they had quite the passion while making the film as they come off as very informed and knowledgeable.
- Sharing the Story: The Making of Brokeback Mountain: This feature chronicles the basic making of the film. Think of it as a kind of making of that HBO would show. Nothing too indepth, but still worth your time. Since I found the film to be simply magnificent, this feature really accentuates the themes of the film in style.
Brokeback Mountain is the perfect example of an excellent film. The film has such rich emotion and style that we can’t help but be engrossed by these characters. The DVD boasts fine picture and audio, but the features, at least the ones presented, are interesting but still lack the overall completion feature-wise that a film of this magnitude desires and deserves. Keep an eye out for a feature-laden version in the future. For those of you who can’t wait, pick up this version solely for the film as Brokeback Mountain is breathtaking.
Special Features List
- On Being A Cowboy
- Directing From The Heart: Ang Lee
- From Script to Screen: Interviews with Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana
- Sharing the Story: The Making of Brokeback Mountain