Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – The Deer Hunter (1978)

Starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken & Meryl Streep

Rating 8/10

This film was released a mere three years after the fall of Saigon. Talk about hitting raw nerves. The Deer Hunter is not your average blockbuster. It takes its time. It is confronting and moving and, at times, feels very real.

Clairton, Western Pennsylvania 1968. This is a steel city full of blue collared rough nuts who work to live and live to party and take the occasional deer hunting trip. First there’s a wedding. A very looonnnggg wedding (51 minutes to be exact). Friends Michael (De Niro), Nick (Walken) and a few other buffly blokes are watching their mate, Steve (John Savage) tie the knot. During the wild reception, Mike makes ‘eyes’ at Nick’s girlfriend, Linda (Streep). Intrigue!

Then it’s off for the last deer hunt before shipping off to Vietnam for Mike, Steve and Nick. Poignancy ensues. Cut to Nam where bombs are flying, violence is the norm and the boys are in big trouble. When they are captured, the fellas are forced to join in a painfully graphic game of russian roulette. Be prepared, people, it’s going to be bloody from here on in. This is where the film earns its R rating.

Eventually a few return home where things seem the same… but different. Like every soldier returned from the horrors of war, these boys have been sobered by what they have seen and friendships have been changed forever. Death and romance, mental illness and brotherhood. It’s all here. And it is done brilliantly.

I’m not big on graphic war films but this one was mesmerising. It is a long film but I just had to hang in there to see what happened to the characters. The first part of the film is very long and drawn out but it bonds you to these people. It is a depressing little town but somehow these people make the most of it and that is to be admired.

The war scenes were confronting but realistic. That’s how it was… I guess. I don’t mind seeing violence when it is purposeful, when it’s a part of the story. The scenery and stunts (performed by the actors themselves) were impressive. The music is haunting and uplifting. The performances were perfect. You can’t go wrong with De Niro, Walken and Streep.

It is not a happy chappy kinda film. Like De Niro running down the road naked, this film strips back all the pretences of the Vietnam war and shows the human cost, the real experience, as much as a film can. What a colossal mistake, what a pointless war… sound familiar?

The Deer Hunter Trivia: 

  • Budget – $15 million
  • De Niro was so offended that Walken spat in his face that he stormed off the set.
  • The bar was made for the film but was actually turned into a watering joint for actual steel workers after filming finished.
  • Most of Meryl Streep’s lines were improvised.
  • A Vietnam memorial was set up after a veteran saw this film.
  • John Cazale who played Stanley Stosh was dying of cancer and had to have his scenes filmed first because he felt so weak. He died after the film was completed.
  • A real bullet was put in the gun in some of the russian roulette scenes to keep the actors on their toes. This was De Niro’s idea. Walken was apparently very nervous about this and kept checking where the bullet lay.
  • No sound stages were used.
  • The actors were actually slapped…. many times in the russian roulette scene.
  • When Steve yells to Michael that there’s rats in the water, he’s actually addressing the director. It was so good they kept it in.
  • No animals were harmed in the making of the film, only sedated.
Phew! That was a heavy one. The next one we’re watching is Kramer vs Kramer starring Dustin Hoffman and our mate Meryl Streep again! See you then!

2 comments on “Best Picture – The Deer Hunter (1978)

  1. Eye Floaters
    November 27, 2011

    How we tret our veterans is aweful. They gave their lives for our country and deserve to be treated like royalty. Thank you!

  2. Nestor
    October 27, 2011

    Glad to be one of several visitors on this awe inspiring website :D.

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