Beautiful. Enthralling. Compelling. Heart-wrenching. Just as the main character, Ennis del Mar, has difficulty finding words to express himself, it is difficult to find words to express how powerful this movie is. I don't normally go for serious love stories (be it straight, gay, or a child and their dog), but I am so glad I made an exception this time. On Sunday afternoon I entered a fairly full theatre with my friend Alice to see this long awaited movie. Why did I want to see it? One - I think director Ang Lee is incredibly gifted (as seen from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Sense and Sensibility). Two - I have always liked Heath Ledger (from the days he was 18 years old and starred in Shaun Cassidy's short lived Celtic fantasy series, Roar) and felt he has not received the credit or roles he really deserves.
The story is simple - in 1963, two cowboys are hired to look after a herd of sheep on Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming. They fall in love, but know that this kind of love is dangerous. Their affair ends with the end of the job and they attempt to live their lives as best they can. The movie tells the story of these two men, their families, and their love over a 20 year period.
The story is real and compelling. The actors use their bodies and faces more than words. Each nuance of body movement, be it an eye flicker or nod of the head, or a violent wrestling scene, conveys much more than pure dialogue could. The four primary actors use their bodies to act in wonderful ways, but especially Ledger. As Ennis, his body expresses what he cannot quite understand and could never verbalize. And when he does speak, he says far more than the actual words spoken from his mouth. Truly an Oscar worthy performance.
The symbolism of Brokeback Mountain is the focus of the movie - something that is beautiful beyond words, magnetic, peaceful, fulfilling; yet also isolating, unpredictable, lonely, frightening, and unable to be possessed. Some of us have known a love like that - definitely heart-wrenching. Add into that the danger and threat of such a love between two men, and the place of deepest joy and refuge becomes even more unattainable than ever.
The cinematography is spectacular. It makes me want to travel to Wyoming one day. The direction is incredible - each shot of the film is valuable, important and integral to the story. The music complemented the moods of the story and expanded it (instead of taking it over as it does in so many movies and tv shows today). The story and the acting could not be better. This is a truly great movie on a number of levels - emotionally, critically, and politically. And speaking as one who always looks for a redemptive note in the world, and knowing that sometimes there just isn't one, I felt the story arc and ending were fitting and perfect. I would not have changed one thing. My grade - A