Missing in Translation: “Brokeback Mountain”

The original story was a short story published in The New Yorker in 1997. The story itself is short, sweet, and to the point. My hesitation about having full faith the movie would do the book justice, is that I thought it would make up random details, scenes, and plot lines to make the story into a longer form.

I was quickly proven wrong when I realized the movie just expanded on themes and ideas already in the short story. What I appreciated was the fact that nothing drastic was added or changed, but rather expanded upon. Ennis and Jack’s first physical encounter is described in a sentence or two, whereas the scene takes around ten minutes of building tension, setting the scene with them in a tent together, granted it is different than the story where they are by a fire and it happens a little more suddenly, but the same point gets across, and I would almost say is portrayed better. There are still the rushed and impersonal aspects of Ennis flipping Jack over and the hurried nature of it all, but the buildup of Jack telling Ennis to sleep in the tent, Jack trying to cuddle, and everything that follows is what makes it a little better.

The one thing that I did not appreciate is the portrayed Jack slightlydifferently. Where in the story, it only comes across as Jack pushing a little bit to live together and have a ranch together, in the story it comes up almost every time they have a weekend away together. This could be because in the story we don’t see every single encounter they have, the movie expands on these encounters, leaving room for it to expand on their feelings as well.

This is the first time that I actually didn’t like something in the written story, that I appreciated in the movie. The emotions portrayed in the short story were not very sympathetic. I understood they were struggling with who they were and their relationship, but nothing about the relationships with their wives and the struggle of trying to see each other made me feel bad in those situations. In the movie, they did a good job of incorporating the wives and children and making it much more emotional. Especially with Ennis’ daughter Alma junior. She comes around a lot more in the movie and contributes to the feeling of Ennis not being there for his family, and the struggle he has between who he is and what he wants, and who he thinks he should be. Through that struggle you can see more of what he neglects in his family relationships and his marriage that you never really see in the story. It is talked about, but it doesn’t make the reader feel anything, where the movie does.

Overall this was the most satisfactory short story/book to movie transition and I overall thought it was very good. It is the bare bones of a story that makes it what it is, and the detail that makes it real. The details that were chosen to be highlighted and stretched, made this story so real to watch and follow along with, that I might even argue it was better than the short story. When I first read the short story, I even thought about the potential it had to be a full-length novel, and I’m glad there was another medium that allowed this story to be told all over again, but in greater detail, bringing it to life.

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