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A close up of Peter O’Toole squinting down a rifle barrel looms before me. His actorly face becoming a mask of concentration as he seeks out the requisite alignment of the crosshairs. You only get one shot to change the course of history.
I saw the film once before, but so long ago that I’ve forgotten its opening scene – where Hunter attempts to take out Hitler – before the injured pheasant raises the alarm, so turning Hunter into prey. I recall only an image of the pursued figure who goes to ground; who vanishes into a burrow, into his dark pit of safety. There he is joined by a feral cat who he tags Asmodeus. When Asmodeus is executed as a warning to his host, the latter dissects him and, using his guts to string together a catapult, manages to escape from the pit.
Seeing it again, some four decades on, it becomes clear that I’ve retained no memory of the cat’s crucial role, nor that of the pheasant. As if, in the interim, the entire plot had been folded into a single scene of Hunter’s disappearance into the terrain; itself remembered in the continuous, viscous surface of the film.
He adjusts the rifle-butt against the hollow of his shoulder, scowling the while at the radical indeterminacy of the mark.