The Power of Russian Roulette in Movies

If you’ve ever seen Deer Hunter you’ll know that the Russian roulette scene is one of the major scenes of the movie. Intense and heart-breaking it deals with many issues that the characters have to deal with in the aftermath of the Vietnam war. Why though is the game of Russian Roulette such a powerful method to create tension?

In the game of Russian Roulette the character is given a gun, with only one bullet in it. The cylinder is then spun, and the player is meant to have no idea if the next shot from the gun will be the deadly one. This is where the director gets the power to ramp up the tension, and deliver that fatal blow.

Through showing the character pulling the trigger, either slowly or at a frantic speed they are showing the audience many feelings that the character has at that moment. The slower the action, the more controlled the character is. Those that rush to pull the trigger and get it over with are more impulsive and in many ways, expect that to be their last action.

Deer Hunter is the film that everybody remembers when it comes to Russian roulette, but there are others that use it in the same style. 13 (a remake of 13 Tzameti) is another example, where a young man decides to take part in something where he is promised lots of money. The problem is he has no idea that it is in games of Russian Roulette.

The running theme between 13 and Deer Hunter is the fact that it is people gambling on the death of others, and this is something that is popular in horror and drama. We just have to look at The Purge 2 for that, where we see the rich placing bets on how long the poor can survive in a certain death situation. All legal of course, it is nice to see that the table turn on them.

The theme that spans all of these movies, is the idea of Russian roulette, the adrenaline rush for those taking part, and of course the big money win for those watching. While those of us who don’t share, that bloodlust may choose online betting sites to get a rush from gambling right from the comfort of our own home. At least our method of fun doesn’t lead to bloodshed and on the plus side we can also support our favourite sports team while still being able to win some money.

Russian roulette will be a trope that is constantly used in high tension movies, because it works. For those who like to see blood, there is the inevitable death, and for those who like drama it has plenty of that. Whether they can ever top the scene in Deer hunter for its emotional impact though is another matter.

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