Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Weighs heavy on the heart

Ang Lee shapes up Annie Proulx’s short story for the big screen. I had read the story and about the movie before hand; in spite of that, Brokeback Mountain shattered me deep. The movie is just...too much!

Critics have hailed Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the brooding protagonist. I agree. Ledger steps into the details of the character. His smouldering intensity grabs you by the ears. In a review in Rolling Stone, Peter Travers wrote:

Ledger's magnificent performance is an acting miracle. He seems to tear it from his insides. Ledger doesn't just know how Ennis moves, speaks and listens; he knows how he breathes. To see him inhale the scent of a shirt hanging in Jack's closet is to take measure of the pain of love lost.

His performance is sprinkled with such moments of epiphany (the ones that melted the Academy’s hearts, presumably). Chief among them is the final scene in which Ennis is visited by his daughter Alma Jr. at his pad. Alma (Kate Mara in a short, sensitive role) has come to inform her father of her wedding. After she leaves, Ennis discovers she has left her cardigan behind. (None of this was in the story.)

Ledger picks it up, folds it neatly, and keeps it in the cabinet. His oppressive loneliness in the face of the motions of daily life that one performs is a dark reminder of the unflinching power of memory to haunt the soul. It takes grit on the viewer's part to deal with a man breaking down for a piled load of missed chances. The denouement crushes one to the core.

Fine acting also issued forth from Michelle Williams, who plays Alma, Ennis’s wife. Her hurt and rage at having been cheated by her husband is instinctive and very real. Her hostile demeanour stands out for its verisimilitude.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway are good, though the latter is heavily underutilised despite her high glamour quotient.

The direction could have been better. The movie moves at a snail’s pace for the most time. Lee takes a lot of liberty with the script, but that is due largely to the effort in deriving a 2-and-a-half-hour movie from a 40 pages story. But as I said, the final scene more than makes up for the shortcomings.

The Hours was another movie that depressed me, but it ended on a hopeful note for Clarissa (played by Meryl Streep). BM, on the other hand, kills you with its lingering sorrow. The kind of film you are anxious thinking about for fear of the pain its recollection entails.

Subversive in a deeper sense

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