Based on the short story by Annie Proulx, the film adaptation of Brokeback Mountain premiered in 2005 in a vastly different sociopolitical landscape. Nevertheless, this queer romance won two Academy Awards – Best Adapted Screenplay (Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana) and Best Director (Ang Lee). Audiences continue to resonate with the film almost two decades later, thanks to a powerful script (and original story by Proulx), and incredible performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. They play two shepherds in the isolated wilderness of Wyoming, where they allow their oppressed sexual desires to slowly simmer to the surface. The setting in itself acts almost like a character, influencing the characters’ decisions and affecting their moods and behaviors.
Given the story’s setting in the 60s-80s American West, this gay relationship isn’t allowed to prosper in public. Both Ennis (Ledger) and Jack (Gyllenhaal) are in long-term relationships with women, and they alternately feel jealous and resentful as these relationships progress over the years. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto effectively captures the ebb and flow of Jack and Ennis’s bond and sets it against the landscape surrounding them – the barren, desolate plains at the bottom of Brokeback Mountain, or the dense forest and jagged surface near its peaks.