Author Topic: A Ninth Viewing Observation  (Read 129293 times)

Offline silkncense

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Re: A Ninth Viewing Observation
« Reply #50 on: May 19, 2006, 09:32:41 am »
Quote
both, movie Ennis and story Ennis, are aware about their relationship with Jack (that it is love what they do have together), but movie Ennis is even less able to express it, let alone to live it out, than story Ennis is

Penthesilea - RE:
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how much is movie Ennis in denial for those 20 years?
 

I posted on TOB that based on the 'Dozy embrace' scene that Ennis not only knew he loved Jack before they left Brokeback but was expressive, but not verbally.    Ennis also expressed it physically when he felt the loss in the alley.   

My concern was it then seemed 'out of character' that Jack expressed a more nonchalant attitude when Ennis found they were leaving the mountain early.  It was clear Ennis was distressed that their time together was being cut short (and he would be forced back into society's world) rather than about the money (although a consideration).  Others pointed out that Jack was not concerned since he never doubted that they would be together after the mountain.

So, what I am trying to get to is, I believe movie Ennis also knew all along in his heart that Jack was the love of his life.  Just took awhile for his mind to catch up.  (Unfortunatley, our minds and our hearts are not always in the same place.)
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Offline Aussie Chris

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Re: A Ninth Viewing Observation
« Reply #51 on: May 19, 2006, 09:35:59 am »
This leads me to the question: how much is movie Ennis in denial for those 20 years? I've seen many posts on IMDB and here, where people stated that Ennis is completely in denial about their relationship ("this thing") for the whole time and some even think, Ennis starts changing not until after Jack's death.
I can't share this POV. I think, movie Ennis knows, but is even more scared than story Ennis. Katherine puts it this way and I can't express it in a better way, so I simply quote her:
Bottom line: I believe both, movie Ennis and story Ennis, are aware about their relationship with Jack (that it is love what they do have together), but movie Ennis is even less able to express it, let alone to live it out, than story Ennis is.

Yes indeed Penthesilea, I think you're right.  If I could extend on this a bit?  How credible would it have seemed if Movie Ennis expressed his love for Jack in the way that Story Ennis did?  I know all the hopeless romantics out there that desperately wanted more from Ennis (yes I'm looking at you Barb) and argued strongly that the missing dialogue should not have been left out.  I argued however that the 'lil darlin's' were best left out otherwise the perceived fear that was supposed to be stopping him from being with Jack would seem less significant.

In another thread Katherine and I were talking about the two factors motivating Ennis during the argument scene was his ingrained homophobia and the fear of losing Jack.  The proportion of these is up to the individual, but I think homophobia always needs to be dominant otherwise you'd be left wondering why the hell he doesn't just get over it.  In order for ME to be credible, getting over his homophobia has to be an insurmountable obstacle.  So when I think about this, ME is about right when it comes to how much he communicates, he could have had a little more I think, but none of that "I shoulda never let you outa my sights" stuff.  SE is clearly more emotive, and sliding more into the fear-of-losing-Jack end of the scale, but not so much as to diminish the homophobia.

One thing that just occurred to me is the generally repressed nature of Ennis.  Is this a factor?  Hmmmm, I'm wondering if I'm not thinking laterally enough yet??? ;D
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Offline Aussie Chris

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Re: A Ninth Viewing Observation
« Reply #52 on: May 19, 2006, 09:39:28 am »
So, what I am trying to get to is, I believe movie Ennis also knew all along in his heart that Jack was the love of his life.  Just took awhile for his mind to catch up.  (Unfortunatley, our minds and our hearts are not always in the same place.)

I agree silkncense.  What we hide from ourselves in our minds will be our undoing in the end.  This is the lesson of Brokeback!
Nothing is as common as the wish to be remarkable - William Shakespeare

Offline serious crayons

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Re: A Ninth Viewing Observation
« Reply #53 on: May 19, 2006, 02:10:52 pm »
I realize this is heretical and doesn't even fully answer the questions at hand, so maybe I'm just stirring up trouble for nothing. But I think possibly we are stumbling over of a couple of flaws (gasp!) in the story.

First, I think it is a flaw to portray Story Ennis as unwilling to embrace Jack from the front. It doesn't make any sense given the reunion scene or what he says in the motel. Yes, the argument has been made that Ennis simply matured by then. But now that I think about it, given that the description of the dozy embrace occurs toward the end of the story, it should say something like

Quote
Nothing marred it, even the knowledge that Ennis would not then embrace him face to face because he did not want to see nor feel that it was Jack he held -- and thank god, Jack thought, that Ennis eventually got over that hangup!

which I know would be ridiculous. Annie wouldn't write that. So maybe she should have left that part out altogether.

Also, I also can't help thinking it's a flaw to have Ennis take a year to figure out why he puked. It just don't fit my understanding of human nature that someone could be so oblivious to their own emotions that they dismiss their reaction as bad food and then, a whole year later, suddenly realize what they really felt. (Joe, I'm open to other ideas -- I asked you for your thoughts about this in another thread and would still like to hear them.)

If we ignore those things, maybe Story Ennis is more in touch with his feelings than we think.

As for Movie Ennis, I agree with what all of you have said, Chris, Penth and Silk. IMO, Ennis recognizes his feelings but has managed to divide them into two very separate emotional compartments. On the one hand, I believe he knows how much he loves Jack. He is sometimes afraid to express it, especially verbally. He doesn't think of it as love at first -- it's "this thing" -- but he fully realizes his feelings for Jack are intense and overwhelming -- scarily uncontrollable, in fact. (My theory is that it first occurs to him that it might be "love" after he hears Cassie use the word, and that by the last scene, his conversation with Alma Jr., he has fully recognized it as such.)

On the other hand, he's ashamed of their relationship. He doesn't want to think of himself as "queer" because he's been taught that's a horrible thing to be. He doesn't want anyone to "suspect" what's going on. He can't imagine being with Jack in an open partnership -- not just because it's dangerous, but also because it's shameful.

So his internal struggle is between his love and his homophobia. One good example of this compartmentalization occurs in the post-divorce scene. Yes, he is paranoid about the 10 people Jack asked and the white pickup. On the other hand, when he first sees Jack his face lights up and he gives him a huge loving hug. He clearly feels terrible about letting Jack down, but he believes he has to do it.

Somehow he is able to go for years keeping those two contradictory emotions separate in his head. But then Jack's implied threat in the lakeside showdown, suggesting the possibility of losing the love of his life because he can't honor the relationship, causes the wall between his compartments to come crashing down and he collapses.

(PS, speaking of flaws, I agree, Silk, that Jack's nonchallance upon leaving Brokeback was out of character. He appears not to fully understand why Ennis is so bummed out. And even if he is confident they'll meet again in a year, clearly that is chancey. Plus, even if not, who isn't distraught about saying goodbye to their new love for a whole year?)

Offline nakymaton

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Re: A Ninth Viewing Observation
« Reply #54 on: May 19, 2006, 04:43:50 pm »
Chris: Thanks. :) I'm glad you enjoyed the essay.

Everyone: very interesting thoughts. Thanks.

Katherine:
Quote
First, I think it is a flaw to portray Story Ennis as unwilling to embrace Jack from the front. It doesn't make any sense given the reunion scene or what he says in the motel. Yes, the argument has been made that Ennis simply matured by then.
Do you mean unwilling to embrace Jack from the front during the summer on Brokeback, or unwilling to embrace Jack from the front later?

My reading was that, yes, book-Ennis embraced Jack from the front later (during the reunion, clearly), and that at some level he accepted their physical relationship (they're able to undress each other while having a conversation about their kids in the book). The kicker in the book's dozy embrace memory, though, is the sentence after the not-embracing-from-the-front -- "And maybe, he thought, they'd never got much farther than that." As if the imperfect embrace was somehow symbolic of the way Ennis simultaneously accepted and denied the relationship.

I guess I like the way every little happy bit in the story has some kind of sadness to it, as well... it makes the story much more powerful to have both the love and the denial at the same time. (And I think the movie and the book sort of do the same thing... the story by juxtaposing images like the dozy embrace with the idea that Ennis couldn't accept that he was holding a man, the movie by the amazing way Heath Ledger was able to express multiple conflicting repressed emotions at the same time.)

I don't think that movie-Jack's nonchalance was a flaw. I think it's part of the internal contradictions that make up Jack's character. Yes, Jack is the one who we see being more open and vulnerable (especially in the 2nd tent scene), but there are also a lot of times when he hides how strongly he feels, as if he's afraid... of what will happen if he shows too much of his feelings? Of Ennis's "low startle point"? Of letting the world see what he feels in general? I don't know, but there are a number of times when Jack tries not to let on how he feels. After Ennis encounters the bear, when Jack starts by complaining about the beans rather than show how worried he was. After the first tent scene, when he seems to be hiding a lot of emotion beneath "see you for supper" and "it's nobody's business but ours" and "me neither." After the reunion, when Jack sounds so cautious mentioning the cow & calf operation, and then turns to a joke about how much Lureen's father hates him.

I guess it seems very much like Jack to hide his strong feelings behind jokes or nonchalance, just like it seems very Ennis-like to pull away and withdraw into himself (or to hit something).
Watch out. That poster has a low startle point.

Offline Penthesilea

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Re: A Ninth Viewing Observation
« Reply #55 on: May 19, 2006, 06:04:07 pm »
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I don't think that movie-Jack's nonchalance was a flaw. I think it's part of the internal contradictions that make up Jack's character. Yes, Jack is the one who we see being more open and vulnerable (especially in the 2nd tent scene), but there are also a lot of times when he hides how strongly he feels, as if he's afraid... of what will happen if he shows too much of his feelings? Of Ennis's "low startle point"? Of letting the world see what he feels in general? I don't know, but there are a number of times when Jack tries not to let on how he feels. After Ennis encounters the bear, when Jack starts by complaining about the beans rather than show how worried he was. After the first tent scene, when he seems to be hiding a lot of emotion beneath "see you for supper" and "it's nobody's business but ours" and "me neither." After the reunion, when Jack sounds so cautious mentioning the cow & calf operation, and then turns to a joke about how much Lureen's father hates him.

I guess it seems very much like Jack to hide his strong feelings behind jokes or nonchalance, just like it seems very Ennis-like to pull away and withdraw into himself (or to hit something).

I agree with you, Nakymaton. Another scene, which comes to my mind, is the Thanksgiving scene with LD. After LD said his "stud duck doing the carving here": though Jack is clearly angry/embarrassed, at first he gives in and makes a lame joke about saving LD the trouble. Until the TV -thingie puts him over the edge (yeah, right so, Jack!  ;D ).

And another example with Ennis: Ennis gives his speech "You ever get the feelin', when you're in town, someone looks at you, suspicious, ... like he knows" (paraphrasing here). Jack answers that maybe Ennis should get himself to another place, maybe Texas. How cautious Jack still is after all those years. He tries to make it sound like a passing mention and tries not to show how important it is for him. But of course Ennis get's the point right and his reaction justifies Jack's cautiousness.

In the end, Jack was raised in the same era and area as Ennis (and remember mean old man Twist). I think he had his own trouble coming to terms with his sexuality. Sure less then Ennis, but still some.
Maybe he can't admit his feelings to Ennis (at that point), not only because he fears to shy away Ennis, but also beacuse of his own troubles.
Maybe we overestimate Jack's seeminlgly self-awareness.
 

Offline serious crayons

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Re: A Ninth Viewing Observation
« Reply #56 on: May 19, 2006, 06:54:26 pm »
I should probably stop analyzing the story, and especially stop criticizing it, because I really feel out of my element there. The story, though amazing as literature, just didn't hit me emotionally the same way the movie did, or the way it hit a lot of people, even though I read it long before the movie. Now that I've read it three or four more times, it still doesn't. So there easily could be nuances I'm missing. Naky, I read your essay and liked it a lot. You "get" the story better than I do. You too, Joe. If Ennis' problems with the embrace and his eventually overcoming them are not supposed to be questioned that closely and are meant to stand for his ambivalence about the relationship, I guess that makes sense.

As for Movie Jack's nonchallance, though, it still seems out of character, or at least highly unusual behavior for him. I don't know if I'd call it an out-and-out flaw in the movie (and I suppose it's necessary that he act that way for the plot's sake), but it's the one time I actually get kind of mad at him.

Yes, Jack often hides how strongly he feels. But that's almost always because he's leery of triggering Ennis' startle point. He backs off from cleaning Ennis' wound after the bear incident, he says "me neither," he overlooks Ennis' lack of verbal responsiveness, he omits the info that Aguirre knew about them stemming the rose, he shrugs off Ennis' rejections of his proposals, etc. etc. But in all those cases, it's always because he's extremely sensitive about Ennis' feelings.

But on the day they're leaving the mountain, he's not. Ennis rides up to find Jack casually dismantling the tent, symbol of their most intimate moments. It's pretty obvious why Ennis -- who knows this is the end of their happiness -- gets mad about the pay and then goes off to sulk, sitting by himself and looking moody rather than helping with the work. Perhaps Jack is trying to cheer Ennis up. But he seems downright chipper -- more so than you'd think even if they WERE guaranteed to get together a year later. This is one time he should be MORE forthcoming with Ennis. Ennis is looking for Jack to be as upset as he is, and is extra hurt that Jack doesn't seem bothered. So Ennis gets angry at Jack, too, and lashes out. What if instead Jack had approached Ennis in that gentle "Ennis, what's wrong?" tone he had after the bear encounter? Things might have gone differently.

As for Jack's own vulnerability, I do think he's able to let a lot of things roll off him. He exercises the necessary caution about concealing his sexuality (well, sometimes he doesn't!) but I don't attribute that so much to homophobia. And when people confront him about it, he gets upset but not devastated. That thick-skinned optimism is a really admirable trait, and in my mind one of Jack's greatest strengths.

Offline nakymaton

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Re: A Ninth Viewing Observation
« Reply #57 on: May 19, 2006, 08:11:02 pm »
Heh. I'll admit that, when I watch Jack taking down the tent, I always get distracted by one little detail: why is Jack taking down a canvas tent before the snow melts? I hate rolling up wet tents. They're heavy, and they mildew if you don't set them up again in the sunshine.

Ok, so I pick up on the oddest details. That's not the worst thing that distracts me.  ::) (Mountains are pretty. The Canadian Rockies are very very pretty. They distract me, even during the lake scene. *hangs head in shame*)

Anyway. You're right, Katherine, that all those other times Jack hides his feelings, he's doing it out of sensitivity to Ennis. I guess when I watch that scene, it looks to me like Jack's trying to assess Ennis's feelings without asking about them. Jack starts by just telling what happened with Aguirre -- at that point, Jack's just answering Ennis's questions about what Jack is doing, and Jack doesn't know how Ennis is going to react. When Ennis shows a sign of being angry, his first comment is about the money. And we know, and presumably Jack knows, that money isn't the main issue, but I guess I don't find it surprising that Jack follows Ennis's lead and offers money as well. (And... this just struck me, but is it possible that Jack's trying to hint that the relationship doesn't have to end when they come down from the mountain? After all, giving Ennis a loan would mean that Ennis would eventually have to repay Jack, which would require keeping in touch... And, well, could Jack be trying to turn "money" into a sort of a code for more time together?) And after Ennis refuses the offer, I think Jack isn't quite sure where they stand, and backs off.

The whole lassoing scene is quite gentle at first, and then flirtaceous -- as if Jack's still trying to figure out how to break through to Ennis. And that look on Jack's face, just before he heads to the meadow with his lasso -- it's as if Jack is weighing his options, trying to decide the best way to proceed. And he decides to go with a bit of teasing and rough play as an excuse to touch. Of course, it isn't quite the right approach either, and the playful wrestling turns into the punch. But I guess Jack's approach seems in line with what little we see of their relationship on the mountain after the 2nd night in the tent. They work together (getting the sheep sorted out, for instance), and we see them teasing and wrestling each other (after the sheep are sorted out, and in the tussle that Aguirre sees). But we don't see any moments (other than that time after the bear incident, and that's before they start having sex) where Jack comes out and asks Ennis what's wrong. And I wonder if their intimacy somehow, in some weird contradictory way, makes Jack more afraid to ask Ennis what's wrong? (Also, in the scene after the bear, it's obvious that Ennis has been physically hurt. And it seems as though it's less threatening to ask somebody why he's bleeding than it is to ask why he looks like he's about to cry. So maybe that's part of it, too?)

(I'm reading more into the scene to make it make sense to me than I see in Jake's performance, I admit. I see caution before the lassoing, but I'm not sure what Jack's feeling before that. But I also think that, strangely enough, Jack is better at hiding how he really feels, or at pretending to feel a different way, than Ennis is. There are always these hints of turmoil beneath Ennis's stoicism.)

(And now I'm going to go back to fretting over whether the tent ended up getting mildew all over it. ;) )
Watch out. That poster has a low startle point.

Offline silkncense

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Re: A Ninth Viewing Observation
« Reply #58 on: May 19, 2006, 09:56:36 pm »
latjoreme (Katherine?) -

You always seem to flesh out the point I'm trying to get across.  I should know better than try to put any type of cohesive thought together after a week of 3 - 5 hours sleep per night(like Diana Ossana, I have had chronic insomnia for some 20+ years).

Naky - I think your take on Jack in the scene as they prepare to leave Brokeback seems reasonable at the time it appears in the film, but in context with the dozy embrace just seemed false.  Ennis had, based on the flashback, showed his love of Jack.  Thus why did he have to be so careful in his words & actions at this point.  Later, after the motel scene & the following few days in the mountains, when Ennis twice turns Jack away from a life together, than I can see why Jack becomes tenative.
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Offline nakymaton

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Re: A Ninth Viewing Observation
« Reply #59 on: May 19, 2006, 10:18:56 pm »
Naky - I think your take on Jack in the scene as they prepare to leave Brokeback seems reasonable at the time it appears in the film, but in context with the dozy embrace just seemed false.  Ennis had, based on the flashback, showed his love of Jack.  Thus why did he have to be so careful in his words & actions at this point.
That's a good point. And the punch, as well, was probably a turning point for Jack's caution. (Why did Jack wait four years to look up Ennis?) There isn't really anything between the 2nd tent scene and the punch that shows that Ennis had a low startle point; during the most stressful scene, when the sheep are all mixed, Ennis goes into his stable-and-responsible mode, and the rest of the time we see him he's affectionate with Jack.

I could imagine Ennis alternating between being affectionate and being touchy, but the movie doesn't show that happening on the mountain after the 2nd tent scene.
Watch out. That poster has a low startle point.