Drive Alberta's 'Brokeback' Landscape
Movies are changing the way we
travel, inspiring tours that revisit the landscapes we see in films.
Some movies seem to grab us by the lapels and shove us toward a new
world. We want to relive aspects of the movie, but we want to
experience the real-world ambience of where the movie happened, beyond
what was revealed on screen.
made-in-Alberta cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain became a cultural
phenomenon, showing the world the West's raw, natural beauty. Alberta's
mountains, prairies, lakes and rives take centre stage and the
province's rural and urban landscapes are featured in scenes that have
become famous among movie goers. What's exciting is that most of these
places, some of them seemingly remote and rugged, are easily accessible
But it's not
just what we see in the movie that strikes us; it's also what we hear
and how we feel. Brokeback Mountain's original score, both haunting and
lively, was awarded an Oscar. It is a soundscape that can transport us
into the world captured on film. And you can use it to augment the
real-world experience of touring the Alberta locations that
movie revealed, just by following our suggestions below.
Brokeback's Soundtrack To Tour
you can heighten your tour of the Alberta shown in Brokeback Mountain.
Just pop the Brokeback soundtrack CD into your car deck or listen to it
on your iPod or another music player. The movie soundtrack, featuring
haunting ballads and lilting fiddles and rock-hard C&W, runs the
gamut of emotions.
songs to what we feel are appropriate places, though it's a bit
different than the sequence of the tracks in the film. But, hey, that's
the beauty of music delivery these days. You
can often format the soundtrack to your own preferences, just as you
can tour Alberta according to your tastes. Whether you choose to visit
dude ranches and play at being a cowboy or
cowgirl, or hit the big city and enjoy the West's urban pleasures,
you're in charge.
Scenes, Match Music
Some of the
key scenes that all tourists seem to want to replay involve some of
Alberta's finest campgrounds. One is a shot of Upper Kananaskis Lake,
which is completely accessible as are most of the other scenes that
feature camping - actual sites at Elbow Falls and Canyon Creek. Then
there's the bridge along the Galatea hiking trail (in Kananaskis
Country) where Ennis picks up supplies as well as King Creek (near the
junction of Hwy 40 and the Smith-Dorrien Rd., in Kananaskis) where
Ennis encounters the black bear (hired
locally, from Doug's Exotic Zoo Farm, just outside of Innisfail).
music matches: Gustavo Santaolalla's spare but sharply evocative
instrumentals featuring acoustic and steel guitar are perfect for
enjoying the above scenes, particularly the pastoral vistas of
mountains, rivers and lakes in Kananaskis Country that are so pretty
you could weep. While these pieces of music can suggest aching sorrow
in the context of the movie, on their own (shown as Opening, Brokeback
Mountain 1, 2 and 3, Wings, Snow and
Riding Horses on the soundtrack), they are beautiful accompaniments to
the lingering images of nature featured by Oscar-winning director Ang
Lee. The establishing shot of the mountain that opens the movie and the
long, twisting descent of a pickup truck in the distance are cues for
you to steer yourself into grand beauty.
Alberta-based location manager, Darryl Solly - who from February to
August 2004, clocked 35,000 km (22,000 mi) for this shoot - it was
precisely this "accessible wilderness," that made him realize Alberta's
enormous potential for backdrops such as we see in Brokeback. In fact,
more than 90 per cent of the scenes in Brokeback were shot within 21 m
(70 ft.) of a road. Perfect for travellers who want to experience grand
wilderness without hoofing over mountain passes.
towns such as Cowley (featured in the opening scene when Jake and Heath
meet outside a rusted-up, derelict trailer) and Fort Macleod (where
Heath and his family live in almost squalor, above a laundromat), made
it so much more real.
apartment scenes we moved the tenant out from the laundromat into the
Red Coat Inn, in Fort Macleod, so we could shoot," says Solly, who's
worked on other features such as Legends of the Fall.
music matches: If you want to relive the city (the renowned Ranchman's
saloon in Calgary stands in for a bar scene), as well as the small town
scenes, with some oomph in your car's speakers, these tunes are the
ones to play:
Went Up In Flames, a wicked fiddle-driven number by the Gas Band; The
Devil's Right Hand, Steve Earl's bass drum, kick-pedal take on the
totemic power of pistols; It's So Easy, the guitar-hooked Linda
Ronstadt tune about the easy charms of falling in love; and, slowing
things down a bit, Rufus Wainwright's breezy, two-tone take on the
classic driving song, King of the Road.
the high-octane music is not all high kickin' fun. When the characters
Jack and Lureen hook up in the scene filmed at Ranchman's, there's a
seductive hurtin' song playing (No One's Going To Love You Like Me,
sung by Mary McBride). Hurtin' songs in Brokeback are threaded through
the scenes between partners, somehow holding all of them together.
you're visiting an Alberta restaurant or hotel or ranch shown in the
movie, or just stopping by the side of the road, if you're with someone
you love - or even remembering someone you've loved - you might want to
flip the switch on these suggested songs.
music matches: He Was A Friend of Mine, sung sorrowfully by Willie
Nelson; I Will Never Let You Go, which bounces along as sung by Jackie
Green; the stirring A Love That Will Never Grow Old, sung by Emmylou
Harris; The Maker Makes by Rufus Wainwright and, above all, Teddy
Thompson's sweet, pleading and defiant I Don't Want To Say Goodbye.
Dubbed the gateway to the Canadian Rockies, this southern Alberta city
that's nudging a million people and is most famous for its 10-day
whoop-up, the Calgary Stampede, was briefly featured in the bar scene
where Jake hooks up with Lureen. That particular bar is the Ranchman's
and is as authentic a cowboy bar that you'll ever mosey across.
Brokeback crew stayed at several Calgary hotels, namely the Fairmont
Palliser, the Hyatt Regency, the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire and
a boutique property, the Kensington Riverside Inn. Favourite
restaurants where the cast was spotted include Catch, the Bungalow and
Living Room as well as several uptown bars and clubs along 17 Avenue
sheep scenes (some of the most challenging shots in the film) were shot
on Moose Mountain, a 45-minute drive west of Calgary and open to the
church in which Ennis and Alma are married was a tough one to find -
but eventually the perfect little chapel was found in Dinton, 20
minutes east of Okotoks on Highway 547. Dinton also ended up serving as
the location of the drive-in scene which was reconstructed on an
existing softball diamond.
60-minute drive west of Calgary, this alpine town of 11,000 was home to
cast and crew for two weeks. Many cast members stayed at The Marriott
and ate at the Grizzly Paw. Numerous images of Brokeback Mountain were
actual shots of the Three Sisters, a jagged backdrop of peaks that
Village: Home to three hotels, this tiny village at the base of Nakiska
Ski Resort was used as a base when the crew filmed various campsites
(Canyon Creek, Elbow Falls, Upper Kananaskis Lakes, Mud Lake) and King
Creek (where Ennis meets the bear).
Brokeback opens with a haunting scene of big sky country where a
clothes line snaps in the wind and is followed quickly by Jack and
Ennis's first encounter in a parking lot - that fronts Cowley's butcher
shop as a matter of fact. Solly raves about this selection and service
and says emphatically "this butcher shop is my favourite in...well, the
world - the beef here is as good as I've ever found." The cast didn't
stay in Cowley but visitors can now - at a quaint, recently restored
tiny church, St. Joseph's Inn.