Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg directed the emotional film ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Steven Spielberg attempted to recount the horror of war. Spielberg quotes; “I was looking for realism all the time”.
The film follows a group of American soldiers in World War Two assigned to locate and bring back Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), who is fighting somewhere in the French countryside. Private Ryan’s three brothers have all been killed in the war and military officials have decided that his mother should be spared the death of her fourth son.
A group of approximately eight men searching for Ryan, encountering various incidents along the way resulting in the death of most of the men.
The beginning of the film
The film begins with typography stating ‘Saving Private Ryan. This is written in quite a clear strong font with definite colours, black and white. This typography then fades until we see a United States of America flag; however this seems to be faded.
I think what the director is trying to show is that the American dream has been broken. This is a superb way of showing such a deep meaning within something so simple.
The film then moves on to the camera panning up to the back of an elderly man who is limping. This leaves you asking more questions and also leaves an air of mystery about who this man is and why he is here. You then see the man stumbling towards a military cemetery. You see thousands and thousands of graves. All these graves make us feel a sense of devastation. The camera follows him limping towards a certain grave. The elderly man begins to weep and falls onto his knees. The camera zooms into the man’s eyes. This makes the audience feel that they have been put into this elderly mans shoes.
The sound of the film
The sound plays a big part in order to show emotion. Whilst the title graphics are showing you can hear trumpets. Trumpets are commonly used for military funerals. Also, when the camera follows the man, you can hear his footsteps and the leaves rustling beneath his feet, this makes us feel anxious and nervous. The instruments then build up the nearer he gets towards the grave this includes violins. Violins convey emotion towards the viewer.
When the soldiers first land on the beach you can hear the loud choppy waves and you can hear distinctive gun shots; this shows a sense of fright and fear. You can see the picture is desaturated. This makes it seem that is not a happy place; it is a place of fear and terror. The camera work is done by a hand-held camera which gives the effect of chaos at the scene. It also gives the effect that the viewer is there and you are part of the squadron. Spielberg says; “I wanted to put chaos up on the screen. I wanted the audience to feel the same as those green recruits that were just off those Higgins boats and had never seen combat before. Nicety-five percent of them hadn’t. It was complete chaos.” The first shot you see is an extreme close up of Captain Millers’ shaking hands. This shows he is human and he is scared of war. He is just like anyone else although he is still a leader and he still leads his troops on.
You then move on to a shot where you see several troops drawing crosses on their chest, praying and kissing necklaces with a cross on it. The effect on the audience is that the audience feel these soldiers are real people and they don’t want to be there, they know something bad going to happen to them. As the troops fight for their lives the camera follows them beneath the water. Beneath the water the sound is muted and there is a very powerful shot where you see a soldier who gets shot underwater. However this shot is a silent shot and you can see his blood pouring into the sea water. The scene also contains some dramatic irony, this is shown when Captain Miller says; “I’ll see you on the beach.” We know it is not going to be that straight forward.
Captain Miller’s confusion
Captain Miller’s confusion is shown when he realises what is actually happening, what he has got himself into. The camera work becomes very slow and the sound becomes echoed. It is clearly shown by Steven Spielberg that Captain Miller has become shell shocked. Captain Miller is disorientated and incapacitated. He sees the amount of death and destruction. You then see the camera viewing distressed troops asking; “What the hell do we do now, Sir?”, almost asking Captain Miller to take control and get a grip. It also shows that this troop has a lot of respect for Captain Miller. The sound becomes loud again and Captain Miller returns to what he is doing; invade France. He realises that he is responsible to all these troops, and if he fails, he fails the soldiers. Therefore he tries his hardest to get his troops safely onto the beach.
The battle sequence ends with a success and the tide has turned. This scene has become lighter showing the audience that light is at the end of the tunnel. The camera has now changed to looking form the Americans’ point of view rather than the German because the Americans have the higher ground. The background gunshots have quietened compared to the start of the battle. Saving Private Ryan could arguably be called one of the bloodiest movies ever produced, but i don’t think this is a pointless violence as people see in horror movies every day.
To conclude I do not think the opening sequence prepared me for what followed. I think there is a really strong contrast between the scene where the elderly man is limping in the cemetery and the battle scene. The battle scene is very fast paced and quick moving whereas the very first scene is bright and slow moving. Then the battle scene is loud and desaturated. I think the cemetery scene does not prepare you at all for the total shocking battle scene.
I found the opening scene very realistic and shocking indeed, but as I have mentioned before I think this was needed because for people to actually understand what happened at D-day you need to engage the audience within the film, I think Steven Spielberg has certainly done this. Whilst watching this you just cannot take your eyes of the screen. There is great suspense of what is going to happen to these troops, if they are going to make it and what’s going to happen to Captain Miller. However the opening battle sequence is twenty-four minutes long, I feel this drags on a bit.
To finish I would like to say that this is a really good movie. I think this comes down to three main factors; realism, formalism and stereotypes. I think these factors were vital in order to make a worthwhile great film. They act like a sandwich, without one factor the other factors do not work. And all three make up a good foundation which then created a good movie. I would recommend this film to anyone between the ages of 15+. I say this because people below this age may not be able to gain the full effect of the film or understand the logic.
Cite this essay
Saving Private Ryan. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/saving-private-ryan-new-essay