Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

I read Annie Proulx’s 1997 short story Brokeback Mountain this past Fall in the Scribner’s Anthology of short fiction. It is a powerful story and the film adaptation directed by Ang Lee, as I found out last night, is well done. The only other work by Proulx (rhymes with “true”) that I had read previouisly was The Shipping News (1993) which I found in an English language used bookstore in Budapest a few summers back. I adored that book, which did win a Pulitzer Prize and was also made into a film, but hadn’t pursued her other writing. Now I am curious to check out more of her books and stories and to learn more about her as well. “At Home with: E. Annie Proulx; At Midlife, A Novelist is Born” by Sara Rimer offers colorful insight into her life and her writing career. (The article is dated 1994 and so I am sure there will be more up-to-date human interest pieces in response the film’s great success.) In this link Proulx reacts to the film and talks about how she wrote the original story.

I had intended to see Brokeback Mountain ever since it arrived in theaters, but just didn't seem to find the time. Then yesterday an occasion presented itself: The Coolridge Corner Theatre was screening the film in partnership with the Boston Psychoanalytical Society. As the Boston Globe blurb put it: "This year's buzz movie, "Brokeback Mountain," has a cast of characters who could use some one-on-one time with a licensed psychologist. The movie contains loads of denial, passive-aggressive behavior, alcohol abuse and phobias." The event was part of a series called "Off the Couch" and occurs every first Tuesday of the month.

After the film the majority of the audience stayed for an open discussion of the film and a consideration of the issues from a psychoanalytical perspective. It was a lively discussion. I was fully aware that this kind of gathering of minds is a rare thing in my usual neck of the woods. The gentleman seated in front of me was happy to confess that this was his third viewing, he had read the short story and the screenplay, and he listened incessantly to the soundtrack. When I asked him later if he was a film buff or an English professor, he said no. He had simply been swept away by the tragic tale. Another woman pointed out that this is the first film to use the predicament of the two men as the crux of the story while staying clear of identity issues, which I thought was a good point. Their predicament is true love that society thwarts. Romeo and Juliet cast as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist.

It is a tragic story. Not one single character in the entire story gets want they want out of life, except the young daughter at the end of the story. The price for her happiness is almost too much to bear. I will not say any more about the plot or the characters! It is a finely drawn tragedy and the actors do an exceptional job. See it.

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