September 05, 2011

Deliverance (USA 1972)

During the opening credits of John Boorman's "Deliverance", the film's main characters, four middle-aged businessmen from the city, talk about the rafting trip they are planning on a river that is soon to be turned into a lake. Even though only their voices are heard, their anticipation of breaking out from the restraints of their ordinary lives can already be felt. But much like the politicians responsible for the destruction of the natural environment, they don't come in peace. They see the river as their natural opponent and the group's unofficial leader, outdoor fanatic Lewis - Burt Reynolds in his best role - even talks about his intention of "raping" it.

As it turns out, someone else gets raped in the picture in the now infamous scene that inspired a similar one in Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction". But even for the characters that don't get physically abused, the adventure trip has traumatic consequences. First it is the masculine Lewis who (with his bow and arrow, appropriately) kills one of the attackers, the kind of creepy hillbillies that by now have become a cliché in hundreds of horror films. But soon even his more sensible friends are forced to kill too in order to survive. What is remarkable is that there is no clear line between victims and perpetrators. And while the survivors get away with their crime, they pay for it with their conscience. The fatalistic ending is typical for the New Hollywood era, that unique period in American cinema when directors were allowed to break rules.

In a film not short of spectacular scenes, the most memorable one is rather simple. The banjo duel at the beginning of the film between Ronny Cox's character and a weird looking local kid who happens to be a gifted musician. This scene has deservedly entered film history and the young actor who plays the mentally challenged kid gives you the chills every time he reappears in the film. But the real best supporting actor here is mother nature. Several stunning locations in Georgia and South Carolina served as the perfect backdrop for the film. Like the characters, nature is presented in a rather complex way: beautiful yet at the same time rugged and potentially threatening. The conflict between civilization and nature and between the urban and rural population has been the subject of many other films but "Deliverance", despite all its sensationalism, remains one of the best and most disturbing ones.


Human Nature: Burt Reynolds in "Deliverance"

1 comment:

  1. Lewis does not have an intention of "raping it" you need to rewatch. He refers to the destruction of the river as rape.