The Deer Hunter (1978) Dir. Michael Cimino – QFT Belfast 2nd Aug
Who’s in it? Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale, Meryl Streep
What’s it about? Three steel workers from a close knit Pennsylvania community leave together to serve in Vietnam shortly after one of them is married. Winning Oscars for Best Picture, Director and Actor in a Supporting Role (Walken), and boasting generation-best performers at their peak, Heaven’s Gate director Michael Cimino’s emotionally unflinching anti-war epic is as politically motivated as any other post Vietnam war movie; more concerned with channeling the frustrations of a generation than commemorating the victorious dead. From a decade defined by antagonistic anti-heroes (foreshadowing, in hindsight, Iraq War inspired Oscar winners Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thrity) Cimino’s film, along with Apocalypse Now!, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and others, powerfully, perhaps justifiably, denounces America’s apparently pointless involvement in a controversial conflict and defiantly asks why?
Memorable Moments? If you haven’t seen The Deer Hunter chances are you’re still familiar with its most memorable sequence, in which the three young friends are subjected to emotional and psychological torture by the Vietcong as they’re forced to play Russian Roulette with each other.
Look Who’s Talking: ‘Its greatness is blunted by its length and one-sided point of view, but the film’s weaknesses are overpowered by Michael Cimino’s sympathetic direction and a series of heartbreaking performances from Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken.’ – Rotten Tomatoes
Like that? Try this: Another equally recognisable film from the same era, and of the same ilk, is 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining director Stanley Kubrick’s iconic Full Metal Jacket (1987). It’s no holds barred depiction of the deliberate dehumanization of Marine Corps recruits during Basic Training, at the hands of R. Lee Ermy’s merciless drill instructor, is a real eye-opener for the uninitiated.
Trivia Pursuit: A live round was reportedly requested by DeNiro for filming one of the Russian Roulette scenes.