February 3, 2006
Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay (Paperback)
If you don't know about the acclaim received by the Oscar bound movie, "Brokeback Mountain," then you have either been in a coma or you are George W. Bush.
No, this is not the DVD of the film, although we do plan to offer the movie as a premium when it comes out this spring. This is the best-selling book that includes the original short story by celebrated writer Annie Proulx upon which the movie is based. It also includes the actual film screenplay. On top of that, there are essays by Proulx and the scriptwriters: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. (For the real cinemaphiles, it also has the complete film credits.)
Most people who have seen "Brokeback Mountain" are quick to qualify that this is not a "gay movie," because they feel that makes it sound like a film with a political mission. Instead, it has been almost universally praised for dwelling on the eternal themes of isolation, sexual attraction, emotional pain, fate, and miscommunication. Add to that the striking Western landscapes, and you have a literary movie of the first order.
Serious literature has a bad track record in Hollywood of conversion from story or book to the silver screen. But clearly, "Brokeback Mountain" is a deeply thoughtful and moving exception.
The acting has clearly been recognized as subtle and high-caliber, but the written script shows that the characters were skillfully fleshed out before the filming even started.
As one online reviewer on that other website noted: "Both the short story and screenplay are likely to move you to tears, make you feel like somebody's pulling your guts out hand over hand a yard at a time, as Annie Proulx writes of Ennis. They can also make you treasure love more. Proulx's prose is pure poetry.
"The screenplay is one of the best I've read -- a terrific read and a faithful adaptation and expansion. It's fascinating to have them side by side, to see how certain characters and events were fleshed out, how for example a single sentence [about a terrible misunderstanding of Jack's, for those who know the story] became a tear-jerking three-page sequence of scenes.
"The story, script and movie all add depth to each other, like three tellings of the same tale that emphasize different shades. If you're interested in delving deeper into the lives and loves of these characters and the starkly beautiful honesty of this world, buy this book. In addition to the story and script, the book includes three eloquent essays by Proulx and each of the screenwriters, Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. These offer a good deal of insight and color to the story and whole development process, from Proulx's germ of an idea for a short story to the screenwriters shepherding the project for years, to each of their reactions to the final film.
"Fascinating and powerful. Strongly recommended."
So, if you've seen the movie, you can get this book and read the short story it was based on and study the script. You can also read the thoughts of the original author and scriptwriters about the transition from story to screenplay.
It's not often that both the original story and the script can survive such scrutiny on the written page, but it does with "Brokeback Mountain." If someone asks you, "Did you see the movie?" you can dazzle them by responding, "No, but I read the book."