Brokeback Mountain (2005) Ending Explained – Why do Jack and Ennis split up?

Brokeback Mountain Plot Synopsis

Brokeback Mountain, is widely regarded as a ground-breaking movie, but contemporaneous reviews were polarized. It was controversial for its depictions of homosexuality, and its challenges to morality, religion, and societal values.

This wild and creatively complex movie gained popularity as it presented an alternative perspective to the homophobic rants about homosexuality’s “unnaturalness” back in the day. It replaced it with the unnaturalness of sexual repression.

“Brokeback Mountain”, the American Neo-Western romance drama movie, is directed by Ang Lee, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, producer, and screenwriter.

The film stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and it explores the 20-year complicated, romantic connection between two American cowboys – Ennis Del Mar, and Jack Twist – in the American West.

The pair form an intimate bond, which is eventually destroyed by cultural conventions. Their plight is shared by everyone. Such “forbidden” passion could be present between two women or between couples from distinct religious or ethnic backgrounds which makes the movie even more relatable to the audience.

What served as the inspiration for Brokeback Mountain?

The heartbreaking story of “Brokeback Mountain” is based on a short story of the same name. This tale was written by Annie Proulx and was published in the New Yorker back in 1997.

In an interview, Anne Proulx recalls a time when she lived in Northern Wyoming and saw a good number of people were homophobes. She observed an old cowboy resting against a wall one night when she was at a bar, and he was looking at the guys in the bar who were playing pool with an unusual sad, wistful expression.

The author pondered if he was gay, and she imagined what it might be like to be an old cowboy living in a community where being homosexual was frowned upon.

In a separate interview, Proulx said: “The novel was not ‘inspired’, but rather the consequence of years of subliminal observation and thinking, eventually brought to the point of writing.”

Proulx went on to talk about how remote North America and local cultures influence her art, as well as how she “watches for the historical skew between what people have hoped for and who they thought they were and what has happened to them”.

How is the source material depicted in the movie?

Proulx continuously pits nature and culture against one other in Brokeback Mountain. Nature is mirrored in the uncontrollable feelings that the two characters have for each other, and the scenery depicted while their romance was blossoming endows the setting with symbolic significance.

Brokeback Mountain’s scenery intensifies themes of desire and repression, reshaping the usual role of landscape in a western movie.

Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar struggle throughout the movie to find words to explain how they feel for one another, and even when they do, they feel too hampered by societal standards, and culture, to freely express themselves.

The landscape contributes to the telling of the story. When dialogue isn’t enough to communicate the story of Brokeback Mountain, this plays a vital role.

The film takes place in the rocky mountain west, with mountains a dramatic antithesis to the two characters’ different hometowns; they both originate from areas that are desolate in both a physical and emotional sense, and Brokeback Mountain provides an escape from that desolation.

Jack moves to Texas to live with his affluent bride as society expects, Ennis is shackled by financial constraints and responsibilities.

From the breathtaking lofty perch atop the mountain to the mundane, commonplace where societal expectations lead them. The mountains are vibrant, full of life, wild, and untamed in the movie, whereas their hometowns are bland, tamed, sad, and lonely. The mountain also acts as a tombstone under which the men’s relationship must finally be buried.

Why do Jack and Ennis split up?

Ennis and Jack would occasionally meet one another while they were outdoors fishing together. However, at one point the two conclude that they simply wouldn’t be able to be together. The decision was made because of Ennis’ dad, who Ennis recalls hurting a homosexual for witnessing them in the act.

This memory was largely to blame for instilling fear in his son. Tragically, after arguing and eventually comforting one another, the duo part ways.

How does Ennis find out about Jack’s passing?

A few years later, Ennis sent Jack a postcard which is returned to him bearing the stamp “Deceased”.  He doesn’t waste any time and immediately contacts Jack’s partner Lureen, through whom he learns that Jack passed away in a crash where a car tire blew up in his face.

Ennis cannot help but imagine a death created from his most terrifying fear. Jack might have been slain as a result of a violent crime, he thinks. Additionally, Lureen goes on to tell Jack how her husband wished to have his ashes spread all over Brokeback Mountain.

Ennis travels to fulfil Jack’s wishes and to talk to his parents as a result. Sadly his dad refuses, saying that he’d prefer to have the ashes dispersed throughout the family estate.

How does Jack really pass away?

Although Lureen’s claims seem to be true, it could actually be that there could be some other reason behind it. The movie hints at scenarios in which Jack might have suffered and died. Jack is seen making advances toward a guy inside the bar from an earlier scene. A couple of men look up at Jack with sheer hatred even as the cowboy turns to chat with his companion in the nook. One can see how things could’ve quickly turned fatal for him.

Jack frequently attempted to satisfy his desires by getting together with men, therefore it is probable that he was killed in the process. Additionally, the movie makes no effort to dispel Ennis’s worries. So, it’s quite possible that this scenario was real.

Anne Hathaway explained in an interview that she is not aware of what went down with Jack. She goes on to say that there were two takes used for the scene in the movie where Lureen calls Ennis. One sees Lureen explains to Ennis how she learned her partner was gay and that he passed away as a consequence of a hate crime. The other involved Lureen telling Ennis that Jack passed away as a result of a tire blowing up in his face.

Ultimately, both takes were compiled together rather than using either of them separately. Anne seems to have no understanding of why Ang Lee ordered this to be done.

Does Lureen know about Jack’s sexuality?

Lureen could have learned about her partner’s sexual inclinations over time but nothing like this appears on screen. In the movie, she tells Ennis that her partner had wished for his remains to be dispersed throughout Brokeback Mountain.

The mountain could have appeared to her as Jack’s possible home during his formative years. But in reality, that serves as a sort of safe haven for Jack and Ennis to meet.

There are scenes in the movie during which Lureen confides in some women as to how her partner refused to “dance” with her. Here, dancing could have been associated with having intimate relations. She continues by claiming that she forbade her husband from “drinking”. She was expressing that she had perhaps asked her husband to refrain from being in homosexual relationships.

Jack frequently “drank”, but he didn’t pay attention to her, as she puts it. Her eyes seems to be watery as she speaks, indicating that she was probably aware that Jack used to go out to meet Ennis or it could mean that she was grieving her late husband.

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