"Brokeback Mountain,” the 2005 Oscar winning gay romance, has been selected for permanent preservation by the United States National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. The film was chosen because it is considered to be "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."
"Brokeback Mountain" joins the handful of other queer films which have been selected for preservation. The other films are "Dog Day Afternoon,” "Midnight Cowboy,” "Paris Is Burning,” "The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” "Portrait Of Jason,” and "The Times Of Harvey Milk.”
"Brokeback Mountain" stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two cowboys who meet in 1963. Much to their surprise, they find themselves attracted to each other, which leads to a twenty year secret love affair, even as each of them marries and has children.
The film was directed by Ang Lee, who first attracted attention in 1993 with his gay romantic comedy "The Wedding Banquet.” When he was awarded the coveted Oscar for Best Director in 2006, Lee said, "I want to thank two people who don't even exist, and their names are Ennis and Jack. They taught all of us who made ‘Brokeback Mountain’ so much about not just all the gay men and women whose love is denied by society, but just as important, about the greatness of love itself."
Indeed, "Brokeback Mountain" is first and foremost a love story. Ennis and Jack come to love each other deeply. Jack wants to take their relationship to the next level, and suggests that they could go away together and make a life for themselves on a ranch of their own. But Ennis is haunted by a horrific childhood memory: his father had showed him the corpse of a man who had been beaten to death because it was suspected that he was gay.
A frustrated Jack finds solace with male prostitutes in Mexico, but he continues the secret affair with Ennis. As the years pass, they continue going on their "fishing trips.” Jack continues to hold out hope that Ennis will one day see what a good life they could have together. Their affair lasts into the 1980s.
Some twenty years after they first met Jack is killed in an accident. Ennis imagines that Jack was actually killed as the result of another gay bashing, the very fate he always feared. He realizes — too late — how much he loved Jack.
"Brokeback Mountain" captured the imagination of the public, grossing $178 million worldwide against a budget of $14 million. In addition to the Best Director Oscar for Ang Lee, the film won four Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture: Drama. Ledger and Gyllenhaal both received Oscar nominations, though neither won, in spite of their superb work.
The film is credited with bringing queer cinema into the mainstream. In his 2016 book "Out At The Movies: A History Of Gay Cinema,” Steven Paul Davies writes that "most major film studios have been clamoring to get behind new, gay themed projects. Thanks to ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ film financiers will continue to back scripts that don't simply rely on gay stereotypes."
Much of the film's success is due to the incredible acting of Ledger and Gyllenhaal. Both actors give nuanced, multi-layered performances as two men who might have been able to make a life with each other were it not for the prejudices of the society they lived in.
Ledger is heartbreaking, exquisitely capturing Ennis' fear and confusion as he engages in a tug of war with his natural desires and what is expected of him. Gyllenhaal is brilliant as a frustrated man who never gives up hope that he can one day have the life he dreams of.
"Brokeback Mountain" is a groundbreaking film. Haunting and unforgettable, it's a worthy addition to the National Film Registry. By selecting it, the Library Of Congress has assured that the film will remain available for many generations to come.
In addition to DVD and Blu Ray, the film is available for viewing on YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu.