April 15, 2006

Why I Loved Brokeback Mountain

I finally got around to seeing Brokeback Mountain. And what did I think? Did it live up to the hype? Did it deserve the Golden Globe? Is it really a flawless film, perhaps even a masterpiece?

In a word, yes. Yes, yes, and yes.

Now before talking about Brokeback Mountain, let me give the obligatory Evangelical Christian disclaimer. Okay here goes.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;
I believe that homosexuality is a violation of God’s immutable law, that the statute just passed in Massachusetts is immoral, that our children should be protected from the Teletubbies, that 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' is an abomination, that 'Will and Grace' would be a better show if Will enrolled in therapy and made a concerted effort to fall in love with Grace.
So how can someone who takes such a traditional view of sexuality give such lavish praise to a film about two gay men falling in love? Simple. You see, I don’t only enjoy books and movies that I agree with. To the contrary, I love stories that challenge my beliefs, that force me to temporarily see life from someone else’s point of view. I’m not a polytheist but I loved The Iliad; I’m not an existentialist but I was moved by The Stranger; and I’m not a liberal in my views of sexuality but I was completely riveted by Brokeback Mountain.

The greatness of this film is that its story is so universal. Though this might be the last thing you’d expect to hear about Brokeback Mountain, it’s true. Brokeback Mountain is a story, not just about Jack and Ennis, but rather about men everywhere, about people everywhere. It is a film that reminds us how tough it is to make genuine connections in this world, how incomparably grand life can become when we’ve made such a connection. It is a film that reminds us how cruel the world can be, how our dreams can so easily be stomped out by thoughtless men.

Brokeback Mountain could have easily become a “gay cowboy movie.” It could have easily become a preachy movie intent on pushing the gay agenda. But it’s nothing of the sort. Instead, it is able to transcend itself and, in so doing, become a story about human existence as a whole. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert writes, “The more specific a film is, the more universal, because the more it understands individual characters, the more it applies to everyone.” He goes on to write that he can imagine “someone weeping at this film, identifying with it, because he always wanted to stay in the Marines, or be an artist or a cabinetmaker.”

Though not everyone has fallen in love with Brokeback Mountain, I was one of the people who got teary-eyed when watching it. In fact, I woke up the next morning still thinking about the film, feeling an overwhelming sense of pity and concern for the characters. I only wish more films could elicit such emotions from me.