Thursday, January 26, 2006

Brokeback Mountain (major spoilers).

If there was one thing that bothered me about Brokeback Mountain, it was that in the short story, the way Jack died is supposed to be ambiguous. Ennis immediately thinks Jack was murdered as his listens to Lureen's explanation because of his own fears and etc., but later he sometimes feels conflicted over which is the "true" version and sometimes he feels he knows what happened. But he can't ever know for sure--because he wasn't with Jack. And each version has it's own unique reasons for being a tragedy.

E. Annie Proulx wanted that ambiguity in her story, so everyone could come away from the story with their own idea about what happened to Jack based on our own experiences *and* for reasons having to do with Ennis, but I'm not writing an essay on the topic so I'm not getting into them. (This post is just an unstructured, rambling rant.)

However, in the movie, Ang Lee (and Anne Hathaway, at that) clearly tried to promote one version over the other. And I don't like that. I don't need someone to interpret the work for me. And I especially don't need someone ruining a crucial part of the story, because I think it's very important that the ending remain ambiguous. I think you can still walk away from the movie thinking it's ambiguous, but it's harder. Especially if you've never read the story.

While watching the movie, some people might not realize that the clip of Jack being murdered is all in Ennis's mind. It's important to know that. But Ang Lee, I feel, in that scene, with how he did the clip and with Hathaway's acting, clearly wanted the audience to feel that Jack was undoubtedly murdered. (And here we have a clear difference of opinion between Lee and Hathaway vs. the screenwriters *and* Proulx.) I hate Lee a little bit for this. I've read that Lee wanted to film it even more heavy-handedly, but, thankfully, he controlled himself.

But the fact that the clip was all in Ennis's mind doesn't mean that Jack wasn't murdered. It just means that Ennis is not psychic and could summon up a vision of how Jack died. So it's not supposed to mean that the accidental death couldn't have happened, either. It just means that the death is supposed to be ambiguous. Ennis will never know and the audience will never know, and we have to walk away with our own interpretation, not the director's. That's the problem with your favorite pieces of literature being turned into movies: you have to see them colored through someone else's eyes.

Do I have a version that I subscribe to more? Yes. Do I know that it's the "true" one? No. You can walk away from the film firmly believing your own interpretation, but you can't tell someone else theirs is wrong.

Actually, I'm not sure I believe one version more than the other. Until lately I did, yes. Someone told me that Proulx said something along the lines of "on his good days, Ennis thinks it's the tire rim. On his bad days, he thinks it's the tire iron." The person didn't supply a link to this interview, so I'm not sure Proulx really said this. But it's what I feel about the story, anyway.

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