Landmark gay drama Brokeback Mountain has been selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
Ang Lee’s 2005 Oscar-winning film, based on Annie Proulx’s original short story, starred Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as sheep herders who fall in love in the wilds of Wyoming.
Deemed worthy of preservation due to its “cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage,” Brokeback Mountain was inducted into the registry alongside 24 other films including Jurassic Park, My Fair Lady, and The Shining.
“The National Film Registry turns 30 this year and for those three decades, we have been recognizing, celebrating and preserving this distinctive medium,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a press release. “These cinematic treasures must be protected because they document our history, culture, hopes and dreams.”
Ang Lee, who won the Academy Award for Best Director for the film, told the Library of Congress that Brokeback Mountain‘s success came as a “great surprise.”
“I didn’t intend to make a statement with Brokeback Mountain,” Lee said. “I simply wanted to tell a purely Western love story between two cowboys. To my great surprise, the film ended up striking a deep chord with audiences; the movie became a part of the culture, a reflection of the darkness and light — of violent prejudice and enduring love — in the rocky landscape of the American heart.
“More than a decade has passed since Brokeback Mountain was released, but I hope that this film, a small movie with wide open spaces, continues to express something both fresh and fundamental about my adopted country.”
In a rave review, we called Brokeback Mountain “simultaneously minimalist and sweeping” and praised its narrative for being a “small and intimate work set against gorgeous, epic vistas.”
Metro Weekly editor-in-chief Randy Shulman lauded Ledger and Gyllenhaal’s performances, calling the actors “magnificent.”
“Their scenes of passion have a masculine brute force, pent-up repression unleashed, passion unrestrained,” he wrote. “The love scenes — particularly the first encounter — are shocking, uncompromising, brilliant. But Brokeback Mountain is about much more than sexual desire, and Lee makes sure we understand that Ennis and Jake are happy simply sitting beside one another, taking in Wyoming’s majestic scenery.”
In 2015, Gyllenhaal marveled at how far society has come since the film was released. Speaking to BET in the wake of the nationwide legalization of marriage equality, Gyllenhaal said, “When I heard about the news I thought, wow, how far we’ve come in a decade. And how far we have to go in so many things. But…the resistance of society and seeing that it’s possible to change was such an amazing thing.”
Gyllenhaal said he was “really proud” of Brokeback Mountain and “everything it had to say.”
“It was an interesting journey to go on to learn about that world,” he said.