Author Topic: "Jack, I swear..." What do you think Ennis meant by that?  (Read 211019 times)

Offline Rayn

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Re: "Jack, I swear..." What do you think Ennis meant by that?
« Reply #130 on: July 09, 2006, 03:28:28 am »
I actually think it's nice that the only person we hear Ennis swear to in the movie is Jack.  I think it re-enforces the power of that final "I swear..."

The Triumph of Brokeback Mountain is the love that Ennis and Jack create for and in each other. I speak in present tenses here: Their love survives everything, even death.  In the end, it is living in Ennis, and so as atz75 points out, though Ennis is not one to swear, the only one he swears to is Jack.  Jack continues to have a strong effect on Ennis because he is alive in Ennis; he always will be. Whether or not Ennis meets another and creates a new relationship cannot weaken that bond. Their connection would only strengthen any future relationship.  That is what true love can do for people. Love calls us out of the canyons of our shadowy, singular Selves to the luminous mesas of the Truth; it's existence requires an oath, "Jack, I swear..."   

And thanks to all of you, for I know more clearly, more fully now what Ennis meant: first and foremost, "Jack, I swear, I love you."  and then perhaps other things as well, "I swear I'll get your ashes up to Brokeback."  "I swear if I'd understood how much you loved me, if I knew how much I'd miss you, things would have been different."  "Jack, I swear... life is hard without you, but your memory is the sweetest thing I know."  "Given a chance to love again, I know I'll do better because of you, Jack." --- I must also allow Ennis his privacy; accept that only he really knew what he felt and meant when he said, "Jack, I swear..."

Love is a gift that always comes with joy and sorrow.  Whether we accept or reject it shapes us; molds us into who we are and who we become.   How we learn from it; what we do with it is one of mysterious responsibilities of human life.  This too is one of the important messages of Brokeback Mountain.

Peace,
Rayn
« Last Edit: July 09, 2006, 11:42:00 am by Rayn »

Offline Brown Eyes

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Re: "Jack, I swear..." What do you think Ennis meant by that?
« Reply #131 on: July 09, 2006, 08:24:21 pm »
Awww, Rayn!  That was very lovely!  It certainly brought a tear to my eye.
 :'(

I'd like to add that I like to think Jack responds a little bit to that "I swear..." when we see the wind in the long grasses out Ennis's window.  They're almost the same grasses/ same type of breeze that we see Jack juxtaposed with in the very first moments of the film outside Aguirre's trailer (the moment when Ennis first saw his true love).  Jack has known about Ennis's love all along (of that I'm very convinced), but now he finally has the explicit commitment that he always dreamed about.  So, maybe he can rest more easily after this.
 :'(



(I know I've said this type of thing before, but I feel like repeating it.  Yup, I love this film.)
« Last Edit: July 09, 2006, 08:26:52 pm by atz75 »
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Offline Rayn

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Re: "Jack, I swear..." What do you think Ennis meant by that?
« Reply #132 on: July 09, 2006, 08:48:21 pm »
Awww, Rayn!  That was very lovely!  It certainly brought a tear to my eye.
I'm glad I touched your heart, if I hadn't, I wouldn't have been writing accurately  of Love.   R.


I'd like to add that I like to think Jack responds a little bit to that "I swear..." when we see the wind in the long grasses out Ennis's window.  They're almost the same grasses  So, maybe he can rest more easily after this.

People see all sorts of things in the movie, it's wonderful you/they do.  That's what's great about it.  There is now even a "Spiritual Nonsense" thread about the spirituality of BBM.  It's serious, I posted stuff there too, but the author, Daniel has so much more good stuff to share.  R.

(I know I've said this type of thing before, but I feel like repeating it.  Yup, I love this film.)


Me too~
Rayn
« Last Edit: July 09, 2006, 08:54:44 pm by Rayn »

Offline Brown Eyes

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Re: "Jack, I swear..." What do you think Ennis meant by that?
« Reply #133 on: July 21, 2006, 08:46:14 pm »
I love this thread!
 :-*

I just re-read a lot of it and am loving some of the things that have been said here over so much time.  I thought I'd re-open a subject that came up a while back here... way back on pages 4 and 5 of this thread.  This subject came up during my recent visit with Katherine too.


Back on TOB, CaseyCornelius authored the now famous Classical Allusions thread (now item no. 1 in the archives).  And, this observation that Ennis's final line echos the words of Aeneas in the Aeneid has always blown me away.  I highly recommend re-reading at least the first post in that thread.  Amazing This is a little quote from the Classical Allusions thread:

"Ennis's final words of "Jack, I swear" echo those of Aeneas when confronted with the 'shade' or ghost of his beloved Dido who committed suicide after he abandoned her. Aeneas says to Dido's ghost, "I swear by every oath that hell can muster, I swear I left you against my will. The law of God--the law that sends me now through darkness, bramble, rot and profound night--unyielding drove me; nor could I have dreamed that in my leaving I would hurt you so".

Are there any other literary references that come to mind in regards to the "I swear..." moment.  Even any other important examples of unfinished statements in literature or poetry?
« Last Edit: July 21, 2006, 11:43:13 pm by atz75 »
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moremojo

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Re: "Jack, I swear..." What do you think Ennis meant by that?
« Reply #134 on: July 21, 2006, 10:48:45 pm »
Are there any other literary references that come to mind in regards to the "I swear..." moment.  Even any other important examples of unfinished statements in literature or poetry?
This is a wonderful question, Amanda, that I think will prove most rewarding to ponder and explore. I can think, off the top of my head, of an example of a potentially unfinished relationship in another great film, Michelangelo Antonioni's 1962 masterpiece L'eclisse. There, the two protagonists (played by Monica Vitti and Alain Delon) both fail to turn up for their appointed rendezvous in a distinctly unglamorous corner of Rome, and the film's last sequence details the haunting absence of the characters from the sites in which we formerly saw them. The film ends on a note of mystery--what happened? We can never know, and are left only with the poetry of emptiness.

I'll be thinking on this topic, to be sure. For now, gotta run. You guys have a great weekend, ya hear?

Scott

Offline jpwagoneer1964

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Re: "Jack, I swear..." What do you think Ennis meant by that?
« Reply #135 on: July 22, 2006, 12:07:10 am »
"Jack I swear...I will never stop loving you.
"Jack I swear...I never wanted for you to 'let me be'"
« Last Edit: July 23, 2006, 08:58:47 am by jpwagoneer1964 »
Thank you Heath and Jake for showing us Ennis and Jack,  teaching us how much they loved one another.

Offline Tristann

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Re: "Jack, I swear..." What do you think Ennis meant by that?
« Reply #136 on: July 23, 2006, 08:16:48 am »
Throughout the movie it is always Jack that expresses his feelings towards Ennis when they are together and not the other way around. The last time they meet, Jack explodes because Ennis won't make the next planned meeting. I got the idea that it is almost as if Jack feels that he loves Ennis more than what Ennis loves him. When Ennis go to Jack's parents, Jack's dad said that Jack mentioned bringing back a friend from Texas to fix up the ranch. Almost as if Jack had given up on Ennis and taken up a relationship with the Texan friend (the one at the party). Perhaps this is the point that Ennis realises that Jack wasn't completely assured of his love for him at that time.

In the very last scene the shirts have changed places. When Ennis found them initially it was Jack's shirt that was on the outside. Now, it is Ennis' shirt that is on the outside. When he says, "Jack, I swear..." it is perhaps his way of saying (and showing) that he love(d) Jack as much.

Someone at another forum also mentioned something that struck a chord with me. When Ennis appeard with the shirts, Jack's mom took a paper bag and carefully placed the shirts inside. Perhaps she had put Jack's ashes in the bag. The, "Jack, I swear..." could therefore also mean that Ennis, whilst touching the postcard of Brokeback Mountain swears that he will return the ashes to the mountain as was Jack's wish.

Offline Brown Eyes

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Re: "Jack, I swear..." What do you think Ennis meant by that?
« Reply #137 on: July 23, 2006, 01:58:57 pm »
Welcome to BetterMost Tristann!  Want a cup of coffee?  And a piece of cherry cake?

Thanks for joining in here... very nice post.
 :)
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Offline Andrew

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Re: "Jack, I swear..." What do you think Ennis meant by that?
« Reply #138 on: July 23, 2006, 02:31:18 pm »

Are there any other literary references that come to mind in regards to the "I swear..." moment.  Even any other important examples of unfinished statements in literature or poetry?

I love that you brought this up, Amanda.  Everyone has an instinct of what Ennis meant when he broke off, though we would all fill in somewhat different words.  Many in this thread have written very eloquently of what Ennis would have said had he been able to put words to intense feelings.  CaseyCornelius' wonderful discovery about the literary antecedent in the Aeneid puts some of the most eloquent words ever written to that silence, in a beautiful translation.

But what really makes the effect in the film is that it is broken off.  Powerful effects are powerful in part because they have within them armies of different, even self-contradictory feelings and experiences, jabbing at us from before and behind.

I cast around in earlier literature and couldn't think of a really apt precedent for this, although I'm sure they exist at least in twentienth-century literature and film, which started using naturalistic effects like this.

Shakespeare was at once the most artful and the most naturalistic writer of his period.  He knew of a Latin device used by Roman orators, who would sometimes interrupt themselves and break off mid-sentence for effect. Shakespeare used this for a new, more naturalistic representational purpose.  He uses it, for example, in Macbeth's last scene in his castle, Act 5 scene 3, when we get the effect of the king's world crashing slowly to broken phrases, sentences that don't need to be finished because the reality they address may not be around much longer, the retainers who should listen all deserted.  Macbeth is overtaken by a great fatigue that can't remember the original point he meant to make with his sentence, or with his life ambition for that matter:

MACBETH:
Take thy face hence.   Exit Servant.
                                Seyton!  --I am sick at heart
When I behold -- Seyton, I say! -- This push
Will cheer me ever, or disseat me now.
I have liv'd long enough.


I bring up this scene for contrast, not for comparison, although Ennis too might feel that his best years are all behind him at this moment.  I know people have different feelings about that.

The contrast I am referring to?  Shakespeare left the phrase 'I am sick at heart when I behold...' unfinished but he did not leave the speech unfinished and he certainly would never have ended a play with an unfinished sentence.

In Shakespeare's time, the eloquence was all put into the words.  Silences were simply the absence of anything.  If silence was to be depicted, it was put into blank verse.  In Lear, when Cordelia hears Goneril pouring on flattery in order to get 'a third more opulent than her sisters' she is not silent, she is made to speak the words to herself, 'What shall Cordelia say?  Love and be silent.'

However, once tools are invented they are almost always adapted for other, evolving purposes.  The Latin rhetorical trick could have another life and purpose under a new way of looking at the world.

By the nineteenth century, Europeans started discovering Asian art and how it uses silence and empty space as positive entities.
Stories started to be written which had no formal beginning or end.  Dialog started to use unfinished sentences.

With the invention of film even more naturalistic effects were possible than in literature.  And strong unfinished effects seem natural in film when they might seem artificial or formalistic in written stories.  There is the visual side to film which helps fill the void.  Ennis' words are not the very last words of Proulx's story.

The effect of 'I swear...' is very different from anything in Shakespeare because it is a modern effect.  I can think of many reasons Ennis might have broken off here, and they are self-contradictory and therefore act more powerfully on our feelings:

- The memory of Jake's constant love for him and determination to work for a fulfilled life were like an unanswerable reproach to his own fears and evasions, so he breaks off as if acknowledging the unanswerability, the smallness of anything he could swear aloud now.

- He knows he is not the swearing type so he stops before he can say anything he doesn't know how to put in words.

- "Jack had never asked him to swear anything" so he can be true to Jack's memory and just think it.

- He has just been speaking with the very much living Alma Jr, the other being he loves the most.  Mid-sentence, he suddenly knows that it is no longer necessary to speak aloud because his communication with Jack is spiritual.

- He is just overcome with tears.  He is filled with the contrast between the wearer of the sweater he has folded and put away, who has just left, and the wearer of the shirt in the same closet, who will never come back in the flesh.

Somehow, breaking out all these elements seems to demean the one powerful effect, like picking off one by one the individual members of the emotional army who are jabbing at me before and behind.

I like Ang Lee's refusal to be overly verbal about this film.  I think of analogies from Asian art.

There is the deliberate choice in ink painting to depict certain parts of the subject and leave others alone.  In a book on Chinese brushwork Kwo Da-Wei discusses a painting of tadpoles in which the water is just white paper.  "It is not necessary for the artist to create that space by adding pigments to the background.  It is more subtle to let the onlooker fill in the space through his imagination.  If I had created the water by adding colors, or lines, the result would have been like painting 'a snake with feet.'"

In the same style of ink painting, a line is sometimes drawn with a brush which lifts slightly lifts off the paper before returning to it.  The part of the line which is not physically seen is referred to as 'Body absent, spirit present.'








« Last Edit: July 23, 2006, 02:59:55 pm by Andrew »

Offline Brown Eyes

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Re: "Jack, I swear..." What do you think Ennis meant by that?
« Reply #139 on: July 23, 2006, 02:49:32 pm »
Wow Andrew!  Thanks for such a great post.  I think the MacBeth and other Shakespeare references are very appropriate.  And,  I think the fact that "I swear..." is left unfinished is one of the most important aspects of the statement too.  I have a feeling that that aspect of Ennis's quotation is more important to literary precedents than the choice of the word "swear"... although that's clearly wonderfully significant too (as in the Aeneid).

I'm now wondering if Ennis as a personification of silence (in that he often struggles so painfully to verbalize his feelings) is a bit of a personification of the old saying "a love that dare not speak its name"?
the world was asleep to our latent fuss - bowie