The Deer Hunter, Cimino’s second movie, can, and should, be read as an epic treatise on endurance and, in particular, the indomitable spirit of the American male, tracing the classic human parabola from wedding bliss to funeral blues.
The Deer Hunter is distinguished by quite audacious transitions from high to low, light to dark. The notorious Russian Roulette sequence – where POWs Michael (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken) and Steven (John Savage) must face off against each other for the amusement of their Vietcong captors – was one of the most terrifying scenes in celluloid history. In a movie that is practically spoilt for stand-out performances – Meryl Streep’s luminous debut, John Cazale’s last screen appearance, Christopher Walken’s Oscar-winning breakthrough – De Niro is always central.
The Deer Hunter is a gruelling film. And yet, from the justly ubiquitous theme music to Vilmos Zsigmond’s rich and lyrical cinematography, The Deer Hunter is a film of enormous, if mostly melancholy, beauty. 35 years on, The Deer Hunter deserves to be reclaimed as one of the most powerful humanist tracts ever committed to celluloid.
‘One of the few great films of the decade’
‘the most impressive blending of “box office” and “art” in American movies since Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather and Nashville’
Winner, Best Film & Best Director, Academy Awards
This screening features a restored print