Restaging the War: The Deer Hunter Abstract [model abstract]

The_Deer_Hunter_posterChong, Sylvia Shin Huy. “Restaging the War: ‘The Deer Hunter’ and the Primal Scene of Violence.” Cinema Journal 44.2 (2005): 89-106.

Abstracted by Liam Douglass

Chong argues, contrary to critical reception of The Deer Hunter, the political meaning of the film’s violence reveals itself in the style of the scenes rather than historical accuracy. She proposes the metaphors of the hunt and the game to represent how The Deer Hunter describes the Vietnam War. Referencing the 1841 novel The Deerslayer by Fenimore Cooper, Chong describes the hunt as a “double cannibalization”(95) in which the hunter becomes one with his prey at the time of the kill. The hunt metaphor arises during the Russian roulette where Vietcong are represented as subhuman while the Americans subconsciously strive to be more like them through display of masculinity in the game of death. The game metaphor applies directly to the game of Russian roulette, which symbolizes the randomness of death and violence in the Vietnam War. To further pursue Cimino’s meaning behind the relationship between the American soldiers and their VC captors, Chong applies the concept of the primal scene from Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. She cites similarities between the primal scene and the Americans’ first experience with Russian roulette, mainly the inability for either party to interject in their witnessing of a trauma which they do not fully understand. This paralysis extends to the audience who is exposed to gratuitous violence for the first time in the film. Nick’s suicide represents the fulfilment of his primal fantasy to become like the VC who forced him to play Russian roulette. This transformation is the revelation of Cimino’s message: those Americans who had entered the war to eradicate the VC became like them as evidenced in similarities between the style of the Russian roulette scenes and the positioning of victim and executioner in the Saigon Execution photograph. This American loss of innocence corporealizes itself in the nation’s effort to rid itself of the “oriental obscene” through the deportation of Nguyen Ngoc Loan, the executioner photographed in Saigon Execution.   [321 words]

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One thought on “Restaging the War: The Deer Hunter Abstract [model abstract]”

  1. Firstly, I want to say that I think your abstract is very strong! I have a good sense of what the article is about.

    What images did Chong use? Photography? Were there images in the novel, The Deerslayer, or Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, she illuminated? And furthermore, does she display these images to substantiate her argument or does she analyze them in depth?

    In her article, Chong seems to be arguing that American soldiers lost touch with their American roots when exposed to the VC. Did Chong examine the politics behind the Vietnam War? Or rather, was she purely looking at the effect the war had on American soldiers? Protests for the Vietnam War were extensive, and I wonder if this “loss of innocence” was capitalized by the protesters. It seems to be that America sensed the disconnect felt by their American soldiers and it ultimately affected their attitude towards the war in general.

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