Movies and Thoughts

The Deer Hunter

I felt like I already knew everything essential going into this movie. But really I only I knew it was a war movie and that there are some crazy-ass Russian Roulette scenes in it.
It’s a pretty long movie, almost three hours right? I’m writing this more than two weeks after I watched it so my memory isn’t particularly fresh anymore. Sorry.

I can however still remember how absolutely stunned I was by how much time they took to establish the characters. It probably wasn’t the entire first half of the movie, but I mean … for a war movie there really wasn’t that much war in it. Think of your apocalypse nows, your thin red lines, your platoons - all almost entirely taking place in “the war”. So this was a completely different approach. It tackled the before and after the war like I’ve never seen it before.
I love the fact that the movie solely focuses on three characters. Everybody else is non essential. We get to know all three before the war, in their most extreme moment in the war and after the war. Yes, there’s Meryl Streep and she’s great but I feel like she acted more as a mirror for the three guys. This movie isn’t going to survive the Bechdel test anyways.

Also. That merciless cut from them being drunk and happy in a bar to them being in a fire fight. And shortly after being held captive and tortured, forced to “do” Russian Roulette. (Play seems like the incorrect word here.) Any other movie would have shown them going though boot camp, going on their first mission, seeing their first corpse, their first kill. This movie doesn’t care about any of that. None of it is necessary. Instead it’s just one setting, one location, one horrible challenge until they escape. And instead of showing us yet again how war is bad in every conceivable colour, they just focus on one moment and how these three characters deal with it. The escape almost seemed simple and rather short, also almost non essential. The weird helicopter hanging bridge scene seemed too grandiose and unnecessary. It felt more like nice trailer footage than actually necessary for the plot.

I liked how every character ended up with a completely different kind of PTSD. John Savage without legs, ashamed of himself (possible brain damage? I can’t really remember.), terribly scared of ever seeing his friends and family again.
Christopher Walken basically gone insane and obsessed with the idea of dying or not being able to die, cursed to relive the most traumatic moment of his life over and over again.
And Robert De Niro, the oldest, really the most grounded from the very beginning of the movie. The one who kept calm. The one who always was used to killing. The Deer Hunter. But still, disgusted by the idea of being celebrated for serving his country, for killing, being lucky enough to survive where others did not, disgusted by himself, but reluctant to ever give up.

And what an ironic way to end the movie. The war has destroyed their life, possibly forever and yet they sing God Bless America. You have to believe in something after all. All of this coudn’t just have been for nothing.
I liked this movie a lot. It’s probably too long for me to rewatch it in the near future and it didn’t make my Top 10, but as a huge fan of Apocalypse Now this one certainly showed me that there’s a more character based and empathic way of telling these anti-war movies.

One thought kept coming up again and again while writing this: I would love to see the exact same movie, but with Vietnamese characters. Or. Even better: Have one American and one Vietnamese as your main characters. Now tell the exact same story: One living an ordinary life in Pittsburgh, the other an ordinary life in a suburb of Saigon. Then both go to war, meet once, survive, come back and have to deal with their PTSD. Hollywood always tells stories from an American perspective. Time to change that.

Mr. Noboby

The Rorschach face-paint psychiatrist is just so hilarious to me. So over the top and impossible to take seriously. It honestly just felt so so stupid.
The musical choices felt so weird. I might be misremembering this but, I think there’s this ongoing argument between Chris and Jonathan Nolan about pop music in movies. The reasons for using it seem obvious: A lot of pop music seems perfectly tailored (in terms of lyrics and musical tonality) for certain scenes. Also it usually sounds pretty fucking cool.
The reason why you probably shouldn’t use pop music in movies is because depending on how popular the song is, people might already know it. And once they already know it they might associate a certain memory or experience with it. Like the music you listened to while having sex for the first time or while going through a particularly bad breakup. So instead of having the effect intended by the filmmaker, it might have a completely different effect. You basically loose control over your audience, which I personally would always try to avoid.
“Where is my mind” will forever be linked in my head with Fight Club. “Sweet Dreams” made me think of Sucker Punch, the absolutely excessive use of “Mr. Sandman” made me never want to hear that stupid song ever again and really “99 Luftballons”? Really?

Again, I’ve watched this movie more than two weeks ago and I actually took some enraged notes while doing so. I genuinely don’t remember the story well enough to understand half of what this was referring to. But here you go:

  • It’s time to turn the stereotype of the girl who is desperately in love with the abusive asshole even though he doesn’t love her back, but he keeps her because she’s a good fuck around! Switch genders. This is getting boring.
  • If you make no choices you really are Mr. Nobody.
  • I don‘t know a lot about mental illness, but i‘m pretty sure that’s not how that works.
  • The under the blanket shot was a straight copy out of Eternal Sunshine.
  • The goddam old people prosthetics. I can’t believe anybody still accepts those. To be honest it almost seems top me like both filmmakers and the audience have sort of silently agreed that those prosthetics look “real”, even though they really never have.

Mr. Nobody is a weird Hybrid of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Magnolia and The Fifth Sense - all movies I really love! And yet I didn’t like it. I wouldn’t call it a bad movie, I just didn’t like it. Too be entirely honest I can’t exactly put my finger on what I didn’t like about it. It’s just too much confusion with no concrete message. It was trying so hard to be intellectual and artsy. It was too much. It didn’t feel right. I’m not going to watch it again, I just feel absolutely no urge to do so.

random thoughts (not a movie, just me)

So. I’ve know for a while now that I have sort of a serious problem with the concept of no knowing, of not having an answer. I’m not talking about not understanding, but not knowing why things happened they way they did. Possibly so I can prevent it from happening in the future. The problem is that all people are infinitely complicated, ultimately impossible to comprehend, but I guess that makes it interesting.
I’ve been doing the 30 days on how to meditate course on the calm app - the full version is completely free on apple TV btw. And todays lesson was about not knowing. I struggled with it a lot, more than with any other lesson so far, I guess this one I’ll have to practice a lot. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to a point where I’ll be just fine and happy with not knowing. But it did occur to me only just now, that not knowing doesn’t just make the future more scary, but also exciting and interesting. maybe that’s a thought to hold on to.

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