Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Brokeback Mountain

This was a beautifully shot, brilliantly acted, and subtly expressed film. I had to pause as I stopped to rate this movie, because I had to ask myself if I take disagreement on moral principles into consideration when I'm rating other movies. For instance, did the fact that the guy in Five Easy Pieces disregards and mistreats his girlfriend effect my rating of the film? Does it matter if violence is depicted with the gritty accuracy of a war movie (i.e. Private Ryan) or in a glorified sense (i.e. Rambo)? Does it matter if the film maker is preaching or is simply portraying reality?

Frankly, whether I like or dislike movies often is greatly affected by whether its message or its underlying beliefs resonate with me or not. (I doubt I'm alone in that, as much as some might deny their subjectivity). However, I also take into account the level of honesty, the compelling portrayal of reality, how well it was made, and so on, since those are things I greatly appreciate in a movie. Even if I disagree, if it is beautiful, honest, and compels me to take stock of life--as this movie does--then I'll give it its due.

If it has nothing else going for it, I probablly won't bother with it. For instance: The Devil Wears Prada. Some people liked it, and that's fine, whatever. But all the humour was all about people putting down other people for the way they dressed or looked or for how low-class they were. Not only did I not find this funny, but it offended me (as it attacked me personally, being as low-fashion as I am) and repulsed me (as it represents a societal ill I cannot stand). Maybe the movie redeemed itself. I don't know. I didn't care to stick around to find out. Its underlying assumptions of its audience did not apply to me and so it missed its mark. I doubt I was ever its target audience anyway.

This is taking me a long time to get to Brokeback. So let's cut to the chase:

I don't believe homosexuality to be in God's plan for his created beings. Based on the Bible (which I am convinced is God's Word) I believe homosexual practice to be contrary to his created intentions and to be disobedience to his instructions on sexuality. As a result the underlying message of the movie did not resonate with me. In fact, some of the scenes disturbed me, the same way that a movie depicting adultery disturbs me; the same way my own waywardness from the Creator's plans disturb me. If that offends homosexuals, all I can say from the bottom of my heart is that this does not mean that homosexuals as persons disturb me. In fact, I love them. (I pray that any homosexual reading this would hear me say that with all sincerity and believe me.)

I felt a lot of empathy for the guys in this movie. They were clearly confused and hurting individuals. Both came from different but less than ideal upbringings. One without parents most of his life, and the other (perhaps worse off) with parents who seemed to have crawled out of a hole in the ground in order to raise one son in a prison-cell of an attic room. Long story short, these guys find each other, and find a relationship that each of them for one reason or another seems to feel the need to take beyond friendship. I don't think that the Creator would have them take it that far, but they do, and the movie is all about the ramifications for their lives (as the above picture, with one of the man's two kids looking on, indicates). Long story even shorter, it doesn't go well.

Yes, this movie implied the goodness of something that I don't believe God has for us and so I did not accept that premise. I also don't accept the premise that we are victims of our romantic feelings (but this is the premise of most of today's love sagas and not unique to this film). However, I accept the premise that these were normal guys whom I can empathize with and love. I cringed at times at the depiction of something sexual that I find completely bizarre, and I hesitate to tell everyone to go see this film for the same reason I hesitate to wrecklessly recommend other movies with sexual or violent content.

But let's not be hypocrites about this either. This movie, like most, had plenty of sin in it. For instance: A man is absolutely a jerk to his son in law and it kills you to watch it, especially because you know (or at least I figure) that this is such a huge part of that son in laws upbringing and such a source of his life-pain. Furthermore, a man is at best negligent and at worst abusive to his wife and kids. Divorce is often considered and adultery is fairly commonplace. We hear of a group of men torturing, shaming and killing a man because of his homosexual reputation. No matter whether homosexuality is right or wrong, this is pure and simply the sin of homophobia and it is awful. Jesus would have had none of it. All of the above things were painted in a negative light by the movie. The only difference between them and homosexuality is that we are used to them.

Yes, I probably would have given this movie a 5 out of 5 if I agreed with its message. But even as I disagreed with it I appreciated that it was somewhat reserved in its portrayal of people who might disagree. It stopped short of showing a guy with a Bible on the screen and having him look like an idiot or, worse, associating him with the homophobic killers. Other movies have tended to paint all Bible-believers with the same brush and I appreciate that this one did not. Along with many other Christians, I love homosexual people even if I feel that the sexuality they are discovering stems from the Fall and not from Creation. I love them the way the Creator loves them. They, like me, are like the sheep on the mountainside so often seen in the film, and I would love us all to better hear and obey the Shepherd's voice. This is not the only movie that leaves me with that longing.

I imagine Christians could be offended that I saw this movie and homosexuals could be offended by my comments. Sorry if that's the case. I feel that I watch movies with due discernment, and I hope I've made clear that I love all people as God by grace has loved me. Please feel free to comment if I can clarify something for you.


Tony Tanti said...

This is a fair review and you've been clear to me at least how you felt about the movie and why.

I enjoyed this movie as well though I saw as a slightly more well made love story than most but not as the Best Picture contender others believed it was. Most people I tell that to disagree with me and I really hope I'm not homophobic and that affected my impression of the film. I really just found it a bit boring at times. A well shot and acted movie no doubt but I wonder if an identical movie centered around a straight love affair would have had half the attention and praise this one did?

That's not quite a fair comment either because you couldn't possibly hit all the themes and emotions the same way unless the story revolved around this "forbidden love".

Anyway, I've gone on too long. Good review Jon, I thought this was a good movie too and I'm amazed at how many Christians I talk to who are disgusted that I've not only seen it but thought it was good.

Jeff said...

Hey Jon, an interesting review. I am glad you liked this movie. I can't say I see totally see eye to eye with your perspective. I don't think that you need to apologize for seeing this movie for one thing.

I guess I didn't take this movie as making out homosexuality as right or wrong. It's like any movie about marital unfaithfulness. You sort of empathize with the character and understand why they would do something seemingly wrong.
But you know my thoughts about this movie, I guess I'm just glad that you were willing to watch and enjoy it for whats it's worth.

Coutts said...

I suppose if I hadn't heard about this movie and just saw it cold turkey I might not have seen it as saying homosexuality was right or wrong either way, but it seemed to me to have that premise if not that message behind it. The societal snubbing of homosexuals is implicated as a reason for the problems of these lovers. It was subtle, which is part of this movie's strength, but it was there pretty implicitly if you ask me. That's fine, but its also fine for me to disagree with that premise. However, if it had been more preachy and explicit I might not have liked the movie as much, so I'll grant that the movie was first and foremost telling a story, and it told it very well, which is why I appreciated the film.

I was going to say the same thing as Dave, that I doubt this movie would have done as well if it weren't about homosexuality. It would have been just another love story. One of the better told ones, to be sure, but less of a stand out I think. It is a close call, but I'd still have given the Oscar to Crash and I don't fault the Academy for doing so.

matthew a. wilkinson said...

I still haven't seen 'Brokeback Mountain.' Everyone whose opinion I respect insists it is good; so I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Honestly, right now, I have no moral objections to homosexuality -so it's not an issue for me (although it is a turn-off, I guess).

This was a good review. I like that you are able to seperate your subjective response to the picture's morality from your appreciation of it's artistic quality.

You liked 'Crash'? Oh no. I thought it was a classic example of good message/bad movie.

Coutts said...

yeah i've since come to see why some see Crash as over the top, and it certainly wasn't subtle (making it much much different than Brokeback), but nonetheless I was blown away by it and it got my mind and heart going all over the place and I thought it did a great job of being mainstream and yet jolting and powerful. there were a lot of great performances and unfortunately racism is still a lingering sore in the states (and in canada) and so it was pretty important too. i usually don't like movies that are so manipulative but sometimes they just do it well enough to make me like them. it was in your face and purposefully flipped stereotypes on their heads (although unpredictably) and since I hate stereotypes it was right up my alley.

matthew a. wilkinson said...

I can respect your reasons for liking 'Crash.'

And certainly some of the acting was top-notch; Matt Dillon and Terrence Howard, especially.