Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Brokeback Mountain is a decade old and it still defies labelling. As a hybrid Western, Melodrama and Love Story, it is a delicate balance of genre styles with an impact far greater than the sum of its parts. Released in 2005, it was part of a wider ‘queer’ critique of homophobia in mainstream cinema that drew attention to the industry’s conservative representation of what is now known as the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender).
Being a ground-breaking hybrid, Brokeback is a coiled spring, full of tensions and contradictions which it plays like a small orchestra. It starts as pure Western with Innes and Jack shown as ruggedly masculine, hard-living cowboys complete with pickup trucks, saddlebags, horses, and campfires with the kind of long silences that cowboys regard as signs of strength. When physical tenderness surfaces between them, Brokeback immediately switches to Melodrama, the genre of intense emotion. With stereotype filters removed, we see only pure love between human beings. Their Love Story endures for years in secret, coming to life only on annual hunts where wilderness is safety and civilisation can mean mortal danger for cowboys who don’t fit the image of real men.
By daring to blend ‘queer’ Melodrama with Western, Brokeback became a brave challenge to Hollywood’s idea of sexuality. A decade on, it still speaks with a strong voice about the emotionally crushing effects of homophobia. It is both a tragic love story and a profoundly heroic film.
Director: Ang Lee
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams