This is a film that has been sitting on my shelf for years; a film that I have been meaning to watch but have never gotten around to it. Well, I finally watched it, and it was a masterpiece. To try to evaluate it alongside the plethora of critiques by film's greatest connoisseurs would be futile, or subpar, to be more exact. Instead of offering a reaction to the obvious presentation of homophobia in the film -- which I feel has been overdone -- I want to express my fondness for what I feel is the most tragic and poignant aspect of the film: the egalitarian power to love.
More than anything else, this motion picture (and I say motion picture because of the sublime encapsulation of the "Wild West" and its relationship with the characters) validates an individual's ability to love, whether that love be invested in a child, a wife or a partner of the same-sex; it is a testament to the fact that love can be, and is, manifested in a variety of ways, which is part of what makes this film so heart-wrenching.
Set during the 1960s, it is presumed that, in order to be realistic, this film could not have a happy ending. But that was never the intention of Annie Proulx, the author of the original short story. Jack Twist's ashes could never make it back to Brokeback Mountain because, like Ennis Del Mar says, "This is a one-shot deal." Proulx's intention was, rather, to evoke the emotion and bring to life the triles of a "cowboy" who was gay in Wyoming, the West and the '60s. She said, "I wondered what it would have been like." And her story tells us. We see the blights of a homophobic society as Jack Twist is denied a job the following year because -- for lack of a better word -- he's gay. You feel the shame, helplessness and resentful understanding of Ennis when his only response to John Twist's "We got a family plot and he's goin' in it," is a curt nod. There was simply no changing the bigoted views of a father, or society, for that matter.
For me, the most touching moment of the film is when, at the end, Ennis closes the last button on Jack's top and says "Jack, I swear." After watching Jack guide Ennis's journey of finding his true identity throughout the course of the film, it was both nice and touching to see that Ennis's jacket is finally covering Jack's, not only keeping it safe, but confirming a very true love.
In her personal analysis of the last line, Proulx explained that Jack would never have asked Ennis to swear; yet, he swears anyway. He submits to love, even though it is in a different form than the kind his society has romanticized.
Although I have a profound respect for this film, and would not dare to change a single scene or word in it, my favorite line is actually from the story. It reads: "If you can't fix it, you've got to stand it," which I think is best expressed in Jack's line, "This is a goddamn bitch of an unsatisfactory situation." The film is about a struggle to deal with "an unsatisfactory situation"; it is about how one finds the courage to come in tune with identity and to develop that identity amidst the hatred and disapproval engulfing society.
I ask that, for all those who have not already, you see this film, not only for the paragon character development by some of the most legendary actors around, not only for the directing, the scenery, the original score or the great storytelling -- see the film to understand why it is so easy to fall in love yet so hard to express that love when society tells you that those feelings are wrong. But, more importantly, see the film to perceive the power of love and its ability to touch all people, no matter where they come from or what their story is.
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