My Favorite Movie

Arts & Entertainment → Television / Movies

After watching The Deer Hunter I walked to my car, got in, and immediately broke down in tears. I have never been so affected by a film. The emotion of the movie tugged at me throughout and had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Even the comic relief parts had me literally laughing out loud.

Whether he realized it or intended it, the director Michael Cimino had made a conservative classic. It was so good that even liberal critics like Roger Ebert sung it praises. There were a few who lambasted it, but they were mainly confined to the extreme anti-Vietnam circle. Over time, however, the liberals who gave it their highest ranking realized they had been had. Cimino had played a big fat joke on them. They were determined it would not happen again, and Cimino would pay the price. The director probably understood at some point that he was a marked man with a target on his back.

Cimino’s next movie was Heaven’s Gate which he probably intended to be a liberal classic. It had all the greatness of The Deer Hunter as far as acting and technicalities are concerned, but there was a definite and unmistakable class struggle theme. No matter, he was still a marked man who must be held accountable. Heaven’s Gate was panned far and wide. The criticism was so severe that it not only destroyed the career of Cimino, but the studio (United Artist) went down in ashes as well. The worst part for me and other film connoisseurs is that it ended the era of the long historical epics. Movies that would make one think and feel deeply about philosophical and historical issues were a thing of the past.

The Deer Hunter began by establishing the camaraderie of young working class males. In doing so it established a strong bond between the viewer and Nick played by Christopher Walken. A lesser bond, but still strong, was established with Michael played by Robert DeNiro. There are several scenes which show the men in various happy and contented settings. The final one is a deer hunt in which Michael shows his skill as a hunter by killing a deer. This idea of a community of good ole hard working stiffs is one of the main conservative values promoted by the film.

Nick, Michael, and Steven played by John Savage then go to Vietnam. They are captured by the Vietcong and forced to play Russian roulette. The roulette scenes were heavily criticized mainly because they made the Vietcong look bad. It was also pointed out that Russian roulette was not something American soldiers encountered in Vietnam. The critics missed the point entirely. Those scenes were a metaphor about the horrors of what the GI’s encountered and the evil ways of the enemy. Once again the movie was advancing conservative themes. Another point to ponder about the Russian roulette scenes is that they heightened the tension which prevailed from that time until the end of the movie. Without them the emotional affect would have been much weaker.

Nick and Steve suffer injuries while in Vietnam; Nick’s was emotional while Steve’s was physical. These injuries convey the negative realities of war. Nick stays in Vietnam and becomes a professional contestant in Russian roulette winning thousands of dollars. Steve becomes paralyzed, is confined to a wheelchair, and has serious marital difficulties. Just before Steve went to Vietnam, he got married. His wife was in the early stages of pregnancy, and the child apparently belonged to Nick. Steve begins receiving large sums of money sent anonymously. It is assumed the money came from Nick. The theme of redemption and taking responsibilities for one’s actions is obvious.

Michael is wounded in the war. When he returns home, he is a changed man. He once again goes deer hunting but is unable to kill a deer even though he has a clear shot. He makes it his mission to bring Nick home from Vietnam. Michael even participates in a game of Russian roulette to convince Nick to come home with him. The development of a peaceful and brotherly love character is evident. This shows another side of war and military action which was different from what Nick and Steve experienced.

Patriotism is the overriding message in The Deer Hunter. In the beginning the three characters are motivated to go to Vietnam out of love for their country. While in Vietnam, Nick is asked by a doctor if his family heritage is Russian. He replies, “No, American.” The movie ended with a gathering of Nick’s friends after his funeral. It is an extremely somber and sad scene. One of his friends, a strong and powerful yet lighthearted person, begins crying unabashedly. The film ends with the entire group singing “God Bless America.” Love of country still prevailed with all the trials, tragedies, and horrors they had been through.

Robert DeNiro was already a star when the movie was shot. He went on to even more stardom in the decades that followed. He never made much of his political beliefs. However, when Trump was elected, he became obnoxious and vulgar toward the President. His development as a person could be negatively contrasted with the character he played in The Deer Hunter.

The movie made Christopher Walken a star. He was hot property, and the future seemed endless. However, he never lived up to the hype. He did star in some serious films and became a workaholic. Walken became know as an actor who never turned down a role. He should have been more selective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *