Chong, Sylvia Shin Huey. “Restaging the War: The Deer Hunter and the Primal Scene of Violence.” Cinema Journal 44, Number 2, Winter 2005. Project MUSE. Johns Hopkins University Press. University of Pennsylvania Library, Philadelphia. 28 Mar. 2006. http://hdl.library.upenn.edu/1017/7076
This article discusses the violent content present in The Deer Hunter. The article claims that the film’s style and depiction of violence cause the American and Vietnamese characters to become interchangeable, a symbol for the ethical and emotional confusion of the war. This confusion, the article argues, mirrors the real life confusion Americans faced after the war when they tried to forget the mistakes of the war, while being constantly confronted with them because of increased Vietnamese immigration to the United States.
The article focuses extensively on the Russian roulette scene that takes place when the main characters of the film are held captive by Vietcong soldiers, making the argument that the camera angles used in the scene confuse any attempt audience members may make to identify with specific characters. The constant change of perspective and lack of continuity editing such as shot/reverse shot in this scene, the article argues, is disorienting and makes identification with the characters difficult.
The article also argues that the way in which the characters are staged in the roulette scene when it is their turn to play the game replicates the famous photograph “Saigon Execution” taken during the Vietnam War. This photograph captures a scene of a South Vietnamese solider executing a communist Vietnamese spy. The shooter in this photograph immigrated to the United States after the war, where he became a successful business owner, but he was later caught in a large scandal over his previous actions in Vietnam; he was only spared deportation by a pardon by President Carter. This is only one example of how Americans were forced to confront their mistakes of the war, the article argues, as well as an example of how Americans have had trouble moving past the war and dealing with prejudice against Asian immigrants.