In this post, I am leaving the book scene behind (which, as I wrote to Maeglian in comments for Part III, I see as very, very different). This is just about the film scene. In this scene, Ennis comes to Jack in the tent.
It is the next night....
The mood is completely different from the night before, when the two of them got drunk and slept. The night before, when Ennis' conflicted rush of feelings (in the "not-quite-a-kiss") erupted in quick, abrupt, forceful sex.
The two men have had all day to mull it over. They are glimpsed doing their separate duties, Ennis finding a slaughtered sheep, as if tangible confirmation of the wrong he thinks he has done.
A new scene opens. It's after dinner, and it's dark. Ennis lingers by the camp fire, while Jack goes into the tent.
It reminded me of hundreds of scenes when the woman goes off to the bedroom to, "slip into something more comfortable." But that was not where the movie went. The next view through the tent flaps showed that Jack shirtless, clearly waiting for Ennis to make the next move, yes. But the mood was utterly serious, not seductive or titillating.
Ennis seemed to make his decision and ambled resignedly to the tent.
* * *
Inside the tent, Jack lies waiting, reflective. The flaps part. Ennis, literally hat in hand, as if he had come courting looks humble, even repentant. He stoops to enter.
Just writing those sentences underscores what a huge thing this was for Ennis. Ennis comes to Jack almost like a supplicant. "Forgive me, Jack, for I have not treated you as you have wished or deserved." Ennis parting the flaps of the tent and his entering is redolent of millenia of symbol and image and metaphor. Not just the obvious stuff like, "flaps=vulva" -- "tent=womb" i.e. "sexual intimacy". That sense is there -- although not literally played out as male/female, of course -- but there is so much more. I could write a dissertation on it (but I promise I won't)!
I'll just observe that the image of the suitor entering the tent of the beloved, or of the priest or novice entering the tent of Mystery where the divine presence dwells, is old, very old. As old as the Hebrew scriptures, and older than that, in unrecorded human history.
As a viewer who shares in this heritage of images, how could I not be touched by the setting of this scene?
* * *
What interests me most in this scene in the film, in the light of the last discussions in this series (about Ennis' reluctance to engage either his wife or his lover face to face), is how Ennis allows himself to be drawn into Jack's embrace, face to face. It's a huge, huge step. But, still, he can't actually open his eyes.
When he first enters, his hat over his breast, he raises his eyes to Jack's but only for a brief glance. How different everything is from the night before. The tent is not pitch dark; neither of them are drunk. This is the real deal. And the both of them know it, especially Ennis, for whom the whole exchange seems almost unbearable -- yet wholly compelling.
For the rest of the scene Ennis keeps his eyes squeezed shut. But Jack's eyes are open. Unless Ennis is so close that Jack's eyes go out of focus, Jack's eyes are open: looking, inviting a return gaze. Jack is patient, as if accepting that eye contact is not yet something Ennis can bear. Jack is receptive, but watching, attending. He shows almost parental tenderness, as if aware of the huge thing this is for Ennis, to come to him, allowing himself to be seen, even if he himself can't look.
* * *
As before, I lightened and sharpened these images. The scenes were not indecipherable as in the First Tent Scene, but they were still very dark on a computer monitor.
~ unretouched screencap from this scene:
~ Screencaps from the "Second Tent Scene":
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