I think I'm the last lj user to post about Brokeback Mountain, perhaps the last to see it. We went to it a week ago and really loved it. It was very moving, very believable. When we got home, we read the short story it was based on. I think the story's very good, but I think the movie's better. I usually prefer literature to film adaptations, but in this case I feel like the performances of the main actors gave the sparse words of the story such depth and feeling that words on the page didn't compare.
Spoilers abound in the rest of this post, so in case anyone has not seen it, I'm putting in a cut.
It has been billed as a "gay cowboy movie" but I think it's really a movie about something universal - the power of enduring love and the pain of enduring fear. It's about two men who have a chance at happiness and fulfillment, but it's a chance they dare not take. Yet their love is too powerul for them to disengage and move on. Ultimately the indecision of one of them leads to tragedy, in the classical sense.
The characters are on the surface people I'd have little to nothing in common with. They certainly don't perceive themselves as gay, and beyond the fact of same sex attraction, their lives are about as different from what I know as can be. They are two rather inarticulate, not very bright, high school dropouts in Wyoming in 1963. As the story progresses, they develop into callous husbands, mostly indifferent parents, living in an alien society from the one I know. Yet I found that I really cared about them, as a couple and as individuals. Ang Lee finds something universal and profound in their story and reached me with it. The sense of missed opportunity, of lost love, is so profound and so compelling that I find myself thinking about the film and revisiting scenes in my head often (one of my measures of a good film). I've also wanted to read more about it - another measure.
I've read a number of reviews that helped me understand the film in different ways, and some that puzzled me. After reading reviews saying that Jack and Ennis are bisexual with Jack being "more gay" than Ennis, I wondered if the reviewer and I had seen the same movie. I was relieved to read an interview with Ang Lee in which he said that they're both gay but Jack is a little less repressed, which was certainly the impression I got.
I find myself thinking about fanfic - although I have no intention of writing any. It's such a sparse film in some ways - so many years covered so briefly - that it seems to just beg for the kind of "filling in" scenes that fanfic is so good at. What happens during the four years they don't see each other and the times in between visits thereafter? It seems that some very good fanfic could come out of cutting back and forth between what's happening in Jack's life and in Ennis's. There's the suggestion - both in the movie and the story - that Ennis only manages to have sex with his wife by pretending he's with a man. Fanfic showing Ennis having sex with Alma by remembering Jack and Jack having sex with other men but with his mind on Ennis could be interesting. And hot.
Another great possibility for fanfic would be to tell the story of the "tough old birds" from Ennis's childhood who ranched together and got murdered (or at least one of them did). The story is horrifying, of course, including its effect on nine-year-old Ennis. But I find it really intriguing, too. What happened? What upset the equilibrium? How is it that the two men lived for years and years among these people with the hostility expressing itself only in the form of mocking jokes and then suddenly it changed to murder? I can think of a few interesting events that could have triggered that tragedy. And what happened to the other guy? Was he killed as well? Did he run away? Stay there? Was there a trial? A good vehicle for exploring this could be having Ennis try to find out the truth - both about Jack's death and the "old bird's". Maybe he takes off after Junior's wedding and tries to solve both mysteries as a way of understanding himself.
One thing I just don't get in the movie, though - why didn't they fish? Or, more specifically, why doesn't Ennis tell the truth about what they are doing - whether fishing or hunting - and just leave out the sex? I can see that if they were holed up in a motel for a week every few months he'd need to come up with a story and a fishing trip might be a good one. But given that they have Manly Wilderness Vacations together (my favorite unintenionally funny line is "We could kill us a nice elk") I don't get why he claims to be fishing and doesn't.