I’ve always known that Brokeback Mountain was based on a piece of literature. After watching Brokeback Mountain, and falling in love with it, I knew that i had to read the book. The library didn’t have it, so I ordered it for 99 cents on Amazon. I found out from Amazon that it was a short story and that it was about 50-60 pages long. When it arrived, I found that it was a very small book, with very little writing on each page, so it easily could have been only about 20 real pages. It kind of blew my mind that a 2+ hour film could be derived from just 20 pages. Naturally, I assumed the movie was very embellished and I set off to read the book.
It took me about an hour to read. It was such a quick easy read, very straightforwardly written. However, it is so spot on to the book. I understand that the general consensus on adaptations is to not base it off of how well it adhered to the written word, however if we were to do it that way, Brokeback mountain is so well adapted. Most dialogue in the film is taken directly from the book, even though there isn’t much in the book anyways. What I realized is that single lines were transformed into full scenes (an example being when Ennis and Jack are wrestling and the overseer sees them), and a lot of the film has a lot of outdoor/music driven scenes. I just loved how the movie was essentially an elongated form of the short story.
This also reminded me of when I first read “Gone with the Wind” (which happens to be my favorite book and movie, but I’m not going to delve into anything beyond adaptation). I saw the movie when I was young, and fell in love with it. It wasn’t until 11th grade that I found the book at Goodwill and finally read it. It is the opposite of Brokeback Mountain; the book is essentially and more detailed version of the movie.
It’s weird because I’m glad that i saw the movie first in both cases: it allowed me to appreciate each story more. With Gone with the Wind, as I read, I could imagine the precise details mentioned and my affection for the movie grew because it was so spot on in my mind, and i had never known it any other way. With Brokeback mountain, since the short story is so brief, it leaves SO much up the imagination and the movie really enhanced my understanding of the story because it doesn’t go into vivid detail the way that Gone with the Wind does, yet there is so much room for making it your own.
All in all, I think that adaptation is a crazy thing, and I respect those film makers that attempt to adapt a story in any way shape or form.