Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Some of my favourite things

Whenever I am asked to pick my favourite of anything, whether it be book, film, music, place, smell or whatever, I find it extremely hard to narrow down to just one thing or in the case of books, film and music even a handful. I hate the thought of having to declare one item above all else as being the most important, influential or best. It seems so unfair. And I find my tastes change over time, even from week to week sometimes. So although on my profile here I have listed my favourite films, books and music, it is by no means set in stone. There will be changes. After all there are books that I am yet to read, music I am yet to here and films I am yet to see that may connect with me like none that have gone before and maybe they will become my favourites.

For now though, I've listed a clutch of films, which I personally regard as my favourites and that no matter how many times I watch them, I never tire of seeing again.

The most recent film on my list is Brokeback Mountain, only released this year. This is a good example of why I find it hard to choose a favourite film. Until I'd seen Brokeback Mountain, I might have chosen Magnolia or Nixon as my absolute favourite. Not any more. Brokeback Mountain was one of those rare experiences in my life where a film has connected with me on a deeper level, not just as superficial entertainment. And if I am honest that is why all the films on my favourite list are there - they're each saying something personal to me.

At the heart of all the films I have chosen are deeply conflicted characters. You may scoff at that idea in regards to the Star Wars Saga. However, without going into all the reasons why I believe this, for me the most important point of the films is Anakin's rise, fall and eventual redemption. Here is a deeply tragic character, who ends up allowing hate and darkness consume him, being damned to live within the walking casket of Vader by making all the wrong choices for the right reasons.

Brokeback Mountain was not, as many people IMO wrongly assume, simply about two gay cowboys. Of course their sexuality was core to the film but moreover it was about the fact that we cannot choose who to love and the consequences that we face by living a lie. The characters were caught in this awful compromise that whatever their choice they risked losing everyone and destroying their own happiness together or the happiness of those that loved them. This is perhaps most clearly demonstrated in the relationship between Ennis and Alma.

Ennis is unable to accept his own homosexuality and tries to keep it secret. Even when Alma sees the truth of Ennis' and Jack's bond she is unable to confront him. The secret remains, destroying the love between them and tearing Alma apart. Yet the alternative does not appear any more desirable. Jack, who is clearly more open and comfortable about his sexuality, we see later in the film being brutally beaten to death by those that cannot accept his identity.

For both Jack and Ennis, Brokeback Mountain offers no easy answers. Their love, it seems, was doomed from the start. It existed in only one perfect moment in the summer of 1963. And all because they were unable to choose who they loved.

That is what connected with me about this film. The fact that in our most fundamental desires, we are unable to choose.

The final film I want to mention is Nixon. Hopkins portrayal in the title role is a revelation. Physically he does not bear a striking relation to Nixon but he has the mannerisms and the speech closely matched. Nixon is a film about a man who, as it often remarks, almost touched greatness yet allowed his personal demons to destroy him. However cynical you maybe about the Nixon era it is undeniable that he left an important and lasting legacy, changing the face of the Presidency and the role of America in the wider world. Nixon may have been vilified but I think this film would change most people's opinion of this hugely influential if ultimately self-destructive man. The latter part is what touches me, how someone who could do much for good, is guided to destroy themselves. We all have that failing I believe.


jamie said...

and i thought it was just a film about two gay cowboys.

Carla said...

It isn't...it's a film about two gay shepherds. :D

Mark, have you read the short story? It's really good. I loved the film, too, as you know. Soon as I see it cheap, I'm going to add it to my DVD collection.