Scene Anatomy: An Analysis of the Russian Roulette Scene in The Deer Hunter
By the end of the 1970s, Robert De Niro was becoming a famous actor. By their role in Godfather franchise and its menacing portrayal of Travis Bickle in Taxi driver, De Niro was willing to look into the darkest corners of the human psyche to get what was right for the scene. In anticipation of his role in deer hunter, De Niro faced his biggest challenge by putting his life in the hands of his character.
Among the contemporaries of the 70s. deer hunter is one of the ideal anti-war films. Following the story of childhood friends Mike and Nick, De Niro originally signed on to play Mike because he liked the script. GQ, “It was so simple and felt so real to me. The characters spoke to me. I liked that they didn’t say much, that there was nothing condescending or patronizing towards them.”
Just like his contemporaries, like Platoon And The apocalypse has come the description of these horrifying scenes is akin to a horror movie, especially in the Russian roulette scene where Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken have to take turns holding a gun to their heads. After being captured by the Viet Cong and losing friends along the way, Mike and Nick (played by Christopher Walken) are forced to play Russian roulette as the prisoners around them place bets on who will die first.
Despite the crazy staging, Jodie Foster recalled the power of the scene as she spoke American Film Institute, “When each passes a gun to the other, they must anticipate that they will see their best friend get his head blown off, with each click of the gun their bond is strengthened even more.”
While this practice may have been terrifying to watch, it was even more unsettling behind the scenes.
Director Michael Cimino made the scene a little more interesting when it came to Mike and Nick as the lone survivors of the game. As soon as the cameras rolled, Cimino told the Vietnamese actor to punch Walken in the face in the frame, leading to Walken’s sincere reaction after the punch.
The most realistic part of the scene originated at the suggestion of De Niro, who asked for live bullets to be inserted into the gun. So when viewers watch two childhood friends holding guns to their heads, De Niro used a real bullet and could easily have shot himself if the crew didn’t pay special attention to making sure the next bullet didn’t hit the barrel. camera when the next take started.
While the original plan seemed outrageously dangerous, the results were stunning, eliciting heartfelt reactions from both Walken and De Niro as they desperately tried to keep from accidentally killing each other. While most of the cast would have been scared to death, De Niro completely immersed himself in Mike’s character, supporting him and being on the verge of insanity, laughing in turn, holding a gun to his head.
As the scene unfolds, viewers see the true humanity of Mike and Nick, balancing their levels of compassion and desperation towards each other. When they both make a move without getting shot, Mike makes their captors laugh insane before taking control of the situation and blowing the others away.
Although the scene was supposed to be a heartbreaking spectacle of what happens to POWs, the risqué side of acting influenced De Niro’s future projects, even halting his work on the film. Mad bull for this movie to make sure he can do justice to Mike’s character. Aside from his insane work ethic both in front of and behind the camera, producer Michael Deely mentioned GQ that it was the way of the world for De Niro, saying, “When you hire Robert De Niro, you not only get one of the best movie actors, but you work with an actor who takes care of the whole picture.”
Review the scene below.
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