The Deer Hunter (1978) – One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall

Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” is an experimental movie about a group of friends in a third-structured story. It turns happiness into sadness and turns a white uniform into a black uniform. To begin with, the audience would protest or be disturbed by the duration of this film. It’s a three hours movie that’s not comparable to other films such as “Satantango” or even “Baa Baa Land”. However, three hours are worthy of anything. In fact, “The Deer Hunter” pays your time much.

“The Deer Hunter” is a drama movie set in the Vietnam war. Divided into three main chapters: the movies tell pre-war, war, and post-war. This film is not like other war films but highlights 100% of the impact of Vietnam’s war psychologically. Simply put, this film tells the story of the impact of the Vietnam war on the characters in this film and the people around them.

The first act is pre-war. This is the longest act between the other two acts. It illustrates how these young men worked in an iron factory. They are Robert De Niro as Michael, John Savage as Steven, and Christopher Walken as Nick. All three intend to register for military service in Vietnam after Steven celebrated his wedding ceremony. This act illustrates the atmosphere of the life of the three young men before entering the battlefield. They also have friends such as John Cazale as Stan, George Dzundza as John, and Chuck Aspegren as Axel. Together, they all often spend time doing deer hunting as their hobbies. In addition, this is also not just a hobby but an identity and bond of their friendship.

The first act more highlighted Steven’s marriage with Rutanya Alda as Angela. This act also tells the romance between Nick and Meryl Streep as Linda. At a wedding party dance scene, Nick gives Linda and Michael the chance to dance. Michael also seems to have a pent-up feeling with Linda. More precisely, this act spent a very long time with deep character recognition. The introduction between characters makes sense because we know what will happen next. Did one of them survive or did they not survive the war?

“The Deer Hunter” refers more to the pressure, atmosphere, and situation of these characters. The situation forces them to think quickly and must act quickly. Therefore, a picture of the atmosphere and a happy situation at the beginning of the film is needed. Very effectively, the scene after a long scene was able to draw its feel in the second act. The second act invited a lot of controversy in its time. A lot of people find it easier to call this a racist film or out of history. The use of Russian roulette by the Vietcong, a Vietnamese military organization that fought against America, was used against prisoners of war. Russian roulette is, often, the critics consider it realistic because there is absolutely no evidence of the practice of Russian roulette in Vietnam.

On the other hand, Russian roulette has become a pop culture in modern media or literacy. Often, this trademark is used as a parody or black comedy. It’s one of the best scenes of all the scenes in this film. The camera, the claustrophobic, and the slap are so real. Cimino also described the Vietnamese as racist and sadistic figures. However, this Russian roulette also has interesting symbolism. Russian roulette is a lucky game where life is at stake. The same is true of the situation of these warring people because they don’t know what awaits them. They experience the war through Russian roulette. And finally, this experience had a huge impact on their lives as well as the people around them. Therefore, “The Deer Hunter” is more like a war drama film than a war film.

The last act mostly focuses on Michael as the main character. Michael is no longer a different person. His trauma towards the roulette experiment made him a little paranoid about weapons. He went back alone to his hometown but was no longer the same as when he left. People welcomed him but Michael felt the inner pressure be lonely. He continued to be haunted by the Vietnam war as well as Nick’s and other friends’ promises. At that time, Linda knew Michael’s feelings even invited Michael to make love. However, Michael wasn’t able to do it even did not want to make it worse.

So, is “The Deer Hunter” an anti-war or pro-war film? The movie endings with a grim yet sad song of “God Bless America”. Interesting, touching, tragic, but full of meaning. Christopher Walken is just amazing in this movie. While some of you want to call this a pro-American movie, or propaganda, I would not say anything. “The Deer Hunter” is a war drama film about dilemmas and injuries.

5 out of 5 stars.

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