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Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Deer Hunter (1978)

There are 2 types of war movies; the ones that take a slightly more romantic view of war, and then there are the ones that seek to portray war more realistically. They depict war as something that dehumanizes human beings, with no nobility being there. People suffer huge emotional and physical trauma, including both the people who take part in it, and the collateral damage to civilians (people in the territories where the war is taking place and the relatives and friends of the war participants). There are a number of movies that came out during and after the Vietnam War that portray the horrors of the war, such as Apocalypse Now, Platoon, etc. The Deer Hunter is another movie of the same type, that takes 3 people who enter the war as soldiers, suffer the horrors of the war including capture and torture in a VietCong Prisoner of War camp, and then takes their experiences just after the war (not their life, but their experiences still related to Vietnam).

The Deer Hunter (1978)

The film was loosely based on a screenplay called "The Man Who Came To Play" (by Louis Garfinkle and Quinn K. Redeker) depicting people who come to Las Vegas to play Russian Roulette (the game is a dangerous game of taking a chance with a bullet in a gun, just not knowing which chamber the bullet is in); this screenplay idea was then combined with an idea about a group of steel workers who go to Vietnam for military service, with their life now revolving around the effects of the war and its aftermath. The movie showed several serious and challenging subjects such as suicide, mental illness, the effects of war, etc.
The movie centers around these 3 Rust belt workers, Michael (Robert De Niro), Steven (John Savage), and Nick (Christopher Walken). In their service in Vietnam, they are captured and help in a POW camp; the guards, to relieve their boredom, force the prisoners to play the game of Russian Roulette. Steven shoots the bullet above his head, and is punished by the guards for not following the rules of the game. Nick and Michael manage to overcome the guards, kill them, and escape along with Steve.
Escape in Vietnam means floating down the river, and that is what the 3 friends do. Only of them (Nick) manages to escape in a rescue helicopter, while Michael jumps in after Steve who has fallen into the river, since Steve's legs were damaged in the fall. Steve and Michael eventually manage to make it friendly lines, and lose contact with Nick, who eventually finds himself in a Saigon bar playing Russian Roulette all the time.
By the time much later that Steve and Michael reunite, Nick has become totally lost to everybody else, his only place being the Saigon bar. By the time Mike manages to locate him, Nick no longer can remember anything and refuses to go back to the US, and then it happens. He finally shoots himself in the head.
The Deer Hunter won
Best Picture,
Best Director (Michael Cimino),
Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Christopher Walken),
Best Film Editing, and
Best Sound.

Nominated for
Best Actor in a Leading Role (Robert De Niro),
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Meryl Streep),
Best Cinematography (Vilmos Zsigmond) and
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

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