Short Story to Film Analysis: Brokeback Mountain
Released in 2005, Brokeback Mountain have no huge change as an adaptation work of a short story published in 1997 with the same title. Generally, the movie and short story have similar setting, character, characterization, plot, and theme. Most of the words used in movie’s dialogue are even written as exactly the same as the texts found in the short story. The adaptation of 28 pages short story into 130 minutes film is done well through some extensions and additional characters without changing the story itself.
The setting of mountain, country, and many beautiful types of scenery helps the creation of romantic atmosphere between Ennes and Jack. The cliché genre of gay cowboy sends image of manhood in some senses; for instance through manly physical appearances and activities showing the masculinity of Ennes and Jack. The blend of men’s adventure in wilderness as the background of same sex relationship between two cowboys also employs certain contrast of setting in an uncommon harmony. This way of framing seems to counter the idea of queer as ‘manless’, besides showing the nature of ‘love’ as human.
Generally, the grand timeline of both artworks are similar. The different parts are actually the minor ones, though it gives certain sense of the story. Those are the inexistence of the opening of the short story (the first paragraph) which sum up the story in the film and the end of the story (how Ennes lives his life after the dead of Jack). However, these dissimilarity do not hamper the gist of the story but adding new ‘tastes’ and ‘perspectives’.
The different length of these artworks becomes another reason of the emergence of more additional conflicts in the film. I think the problems depicted in the film are richer since they are not only focusing on Ennes and Jack’s romance but also exploring their ‘real’ domestic life out of their same sex relationship.
Since both of them are married with their heterosexual partners, the story of their relationship with their wives happens to be another interesting point; such as the different acceptance of Alma and Lureen to their husband, their ‘professional’ concept marriage or less-lovable husband (Ennes’ reproduction function, Jack’s business-partner relationship), and the love story of their wives (the disappointment of Alma knowing her husband is queer, the sad expression of Lureen losing his husband while Jack’s dead).
Besides, Ennes and Jack’s relationship with their children are also more explored in the film. The deep relation between them is seen from the visits and stories of Alma Jr, Ennes’ payment of his child support, the choice of Ennes for taking care of his children than having date with Jack in a time, and the way Jack teach his son to drive and behave in a dinner.
Essentially, there is no distinct characterization of the character. However, in some way, I feel Ennes character is more explored in the film (through his emotions as a lover, husband, and father). Physically, the choice of Heath Ledger is excellent since he represents Ennes very similarly with the way Proulx describes him. Jake Gyllenhaal characterizes Jack less emotionally than the short story Jack did. This is due to the different physical appearance of them and the focus point of view of Ennes makes less space for him to expose.
The use of third-person omniscient point of view in both artworks leads to free interpretation of the spectator since the narrator only functions as the story teller of what happened, including the emotional emotion of the stakeholders. Regarding to the controversial issue of the artwork, it will be depend on spectator’s stance; whether they will support or against the ideology after watching or reading the works. The using of this point of view, somewhat is quite fair for this sensitive issue.
However, on the other hand, this narrative style gives less space of emotional release of the character. It will be different, for example, using first person point of view of Ennes in delivering the story. The human side of queer probably can be felt deeper and more on the idea of why same sex relationship is justifiable. Nevertheless, I personally agree with the using of this omniscient point of view for its more ‘fair-narrow-knowledge’ on what happens with other characters.
Generally, the artworks tell about same sex relationship, particularly the faithfulness of homosexuals in maintaining their relationship for 20 years under certain fear of being revealed as the unwanted part of society. The problems occurred during their dilemmatic choices between normal family, children, work, social paradigm, and love. The loyalty to partner is one of the key points of the story. At the end of the works, this faithful is depicted in different ways. Ennes’ faithfulness to Jack is seen through his longing for Jack by having emotional dreams with him.
The movie, however, has different way of defining faithfulness by letting Ennes move on from his past (indicated with his agreement to attend his daughter’s marriage) without forgetting his deep affection and story with Jack (reflected when he is crying, saying ‘I swear’ in front of their united shirts).
Published in different time, these works still bring the same issue of homosexual’s human side. One of the social issues brought in these works is the killing of revealed homosexual. This kind of problem remained in the time between the short story published and the film released. Moreover, this case is still unfixed in today’s American life by only 10 out of 50 states in America legalizing same sex marriage. The dilemmatic condition of these queer is always portrayed without clear solution for their civic right’s fulfillment.
In the short story, this condition is represented through Ennes’ way of keeping his feeling muted, as it is stated in the last sentence of the story, “if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it”.