While viewing The Deer Hunter I was struck by the pacing of the film. I couldn’t help but think, as I watched the very long wedding scene, that the film was unnecessarily lengthy. As I moved further into the film, however, I began getting the sense that this unnecessary length was analogous to the war itself. It seemed to parallel the struggle in Vietnam, mainly by its sheer length.
I found myself semi-bored with the wedding scene, which took up approximately one hour of the movie. I equate this time period with the beginnings of the war – when the U.S. played a minor monetary and advisory role in the war. As in the wedding scene, Americans went about their daily lives but had this dark cloud looming overhead. Next, the film moves into the short narrative of the characters actually in Vietnam – only 40 minutes by my calculations. This period is as intense and hair raising as the relative short period that U.S. troops actually fought in Vietnam.
Finally, in the third of the movie, the film once again reaches a very long period of disillusionment, confusion, and semi-boredom, again paralleling the actual downward spiral of the end of the war. The film ends with a scene of normalcy – a group of people eating dinner after a funeral. I am ambivalent regarding the singing of the National Anthem. It seemed contrived and trite to me. My immediate reaction was that it was ludicrous and a bit of a cliché. After some thought I began to think that is exactly what the director was going for. There was a sense of an inner struggle within the characters to believe in their country and what they were fighting for.
As much as I disliked the movie, I have to give credit to the makers of the film for its structure. It was an uncomfortable viewing for me – but then the Vietnam War was an uncomfortable period of time.
May 19, 2004
K. Y. Hamilton, BA, MA - Copyright 2006