Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Deer Hunter - E.M. Corder

I watched the movie and it stays in your mind with those chilling images of Russian Roulette that Robert de Niro and friends are forced to get into while fighting the Vietcong in Vietnam. So disturbing was it that I actually got rid of it but now I wish I had not. The book, slim at 185 pages, is taut as a cable at full stretch. I am glad I read the book (written from the screenplay for a change) because it put the movie into perspective.

So we have the young steel mill workers, tough, small town boys, without a care in the world and living life on the edge. Michael, the leader of the pack, dark and intense, also the craziest, the deer hunter who always gets his target, Nick, Steven, all of whom sign up for the Vietnam war. They are to leave soon as Steven gets married. The other pals Alex, John and Stan stay back. The irresponsible, brash youth shift into real action in Vietnam when they are captured by the Vietcong and are forced to play Russian roulette against one another for their entertainment. Michael's survival instinct sees them through and they barely make it out. Back in America Mike is clearly impacted by the war, by what he has seen and experienced and in one beautiful moment, pulls away before firing at a deer that's in his sight. The war has left some impact on life and death. He tracks Steven down, legs amputated in a hospital and then goes back to Vietnam to track Nick who is sending wads of money to Steven. Nick is the crazy American who has survived 27 Russian roulette games and is legendary - the games are bet at high stakes, after all one life is snuffed out each game. When Nick and Michael square off for a game Nick snaps out of his trance and recognises Michael, but too late. He runs out of luck.

The second time, the story hit me with its full impact. The futility of war, naivety of youth, life and death, friendship and relationships, the setting, the characters, the symbolism of Russian roulette as a game that your luck will run out sometime or another. The movie had this fabulous star cast of a young Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep, Johnny Cazale. Intense writing by E.M. Corder.

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