The Deer Hunter is a hauntingly beautiful movie shot partially in Tremont and framed by both the steel mills of Cleveland and the jungles of Vietnam.
Clocking in at just over three hours — including a 51-minute wedding scene filmed at St. Theodosius Cathedral and Lemko Hall with real Russians and real booze — the film racked up five Academy Awards thanks to the work of Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken and others.
But it’s also a time machine, transporting both those who lived it and those who came later to half-a-century-ago Cleveland, a town built on the twin pillars of steel and community.
The central message of the film is straight-forward: The Vietnam War was a new kind of hell. It killed 427 men from Cuyahoga County (about one in every 35 who went) and injured some 2,000 more. The lucky ones — like De Niro’s character — returned home to live the same life with the same people, except the girls were wearing black, not pink, and his best friend had no legs and he could no longer pull the trigger when hunting deer.
Beyond that, the film is open to interpretation in the same way all the best art is. The Deer Hunter’s closing scene — an impromptu “God Bless America” following a funeral — is either a sign of hope or a miserable joke. Being Clevelanders, we’re apt to think both.