The Longest Day Essay
The Longest Day
The primary task of many forms of media, and in this case films, is to entertain an audience. Taking the examples of ‘The Longest Day’ directed by Darryl F. Zanuck and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ directed by Steven Spielberg however, it is possible for the audience to look past the story of the D-Day landings at face value and begin to think of the deeper meanings and true purpose of the film. What does the director want to convey with his use of lighting, dialogue or camera movements?
How does he or she want the audience to react? Both ‘The Longest Day’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ have been made for entertainment, but although the clips analysed cover the same event and try to be as histrically accurate as possible, they vary in many ways. In summary, ‘The Longest Day”s purpose is to convey a historically accurate idea of the D-Day landings and inform its audience of the events that took place. It also glorifies the bravery of the soldiers who took part in the landings.
The film is what can be expected of a war film made in the 1960s – made less than 20 years after the war ended it tries to pay tribute to the men who risked or gave their lives to their country, some of whom would have been very much alive when the film came out. The purpose of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is slightly different. It also tries to convey a historically accurate picture of the landings but focuses more on the horrors of war and the attitudes and reactions of individual soldiers. Both films are aimed at the same audience, which is the whole of society.
The two clips can both be split into five sections. Both clips begin with the troops arriving in the landing craft, but the shots are very different. In ‘The Longest Day’ the landing craft are filmed moving quickly through the water with the soldiers sitting quietly and reasonably relaxed inside them. The commmanders are giving their orders to the troops calmly and clearly. This is a huge parallel to the same scene in ‘Saving Private Ryan’. The shots are filmed as though from another landing craft, giving the audience a real feeling of moving through the water and discomfort in the small boats.
The conditions are much wetter and rainier and the troops seem much less confident. Some are being sick, some are taking drinks from hip flasks and some are saying prayers and kissing crucifix pendants. Historically, the audience is watching the same day played out in front of them but there is a difference in purpose, as Spielberg is focusing on specific characters rather than the D-Day landings a a whole event. The image of the troops given in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ therefore seems much more disheartening and depressing than that in ‘The Longest Day’.
Spielberg has focused on individual soldiers, and has used many more close-ups than Zanuck. This has the effect of the audience feeling like they could themselves be one of the soldiers on the craft, and makes the same shot in ‘The Longest Day’ seem a lot more comfortable for the troops and appears less tense. In this section, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ succeeds in extracting emotion from the audience and draws us into the story. The next shot is of the troops disembarking from the landing craft. The biggest difference to be seen is when the ramp of the craft is opened.
In ‘The Longest Day’, the soldiers begin to cheer and shout as they run up the beach, with very few being shot straight away. In contrast, as the ramp is opened in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ at least half of the soldiers appear to be killed before they even get out of the landing craft. Men that are not killed jump into the water for safety, and here there is a long section which is not included in ‘The Longest Day’. The camera appears to escape the craft with the soldiers and the audience is made to feel as thought they are going underwater as well.
As the camera becomes submerged, the sound effects change also. The action above the water becomes muffled and distant but we are remoinded that the soldiers are still not safe, as in front of us we are shown soldiers being shot or drowning. The images Spielberg creates are graphic and disturbing but they are part of the historical facts he tries to convey to the audience. One of the ways in which ‘Saving Private Ryan’ succeeds in its realism is the editing of scenes in ‘real time’.
All the events that take place are filmed for the amount of time they would take in real life, for example ‘The Longest Day’ spends about twenty-five seconds showing the troops disembarking from the landing craft whereas in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ the same scene takes around a minute and a half. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is very realistic but, ironically, Spielberg uses ‘unreal’ techniques to achieve this; slow motion doesn’t occur in real life but when it is used in the clip it works because it shows something beneath the surface of the action.
Spielberg’s audience is being shown the psychology of the scene and slow motion is used to explore workings of Hanks’ mind. We look around the beach through his eyes, hear what he hears and experience it with him. A lot of emotion is evoked from the audience in this way. ‘Real time’ gives us a feeling of involvement in the scene and viewers are made to feel more ‘connected’ with the characters. In the next section of the clips the troops are getting on to the beach and running up towards the land.
Both clips show in detail the injuries many soldiers receive and bring home to the audience some of the horrific deaths that were suffered by them. Brutal realism is widely used but especially in ‘Saving Private Ryan’; the audience is shown open wounds, dying men and even a soldier picking up his own arm, all in a very graphic way. A big difference to be seen in this section of both the clips is first or third person ‘narration’. As with books, scenes in films usually take on the view of either someone involved in the action (in this case a soldier).
by using the camera as ‘eyes’ and showing what a soldier might see, or showing the action from further away and using the camera to give a wider perspective. The ‘Saving Private Ryan’ clip is shot almost entirely from a first-person viewpoint, which therefore shows the audience a lot more gory injuries and suffering. A first person viewpoint can often give a much more shocking effect can change the audience’s emotions more directly. Spielberg uses this type of filming to bring feelings not only of horror at the situation but sympathy and sadness.
‘The Longest Day’ is mostly shot from a third-person perspective because its main purpose is to inform the audience, and give the viewer an accurate picture of the situations encountered by soldiers and the action that took place. There are almost no close-ups in the clip, and it seems Zanuck has concentrated on showing us the ‘big picture’, whereas Spielberg uses close-up shots to initiate a feeling of friendship between the audience and the characters, as we follow the same characters throughout the film. To show troops moving up the beach. ‘The Longest Day’ uses a continuous shot which lasts approximately thrity seconds.
In this shot the camera pans steadily up the beach, slightly raised from the troops. The audience is given a view along the coastline and is shown hundreds of troops cheering and shouting, running up the beach. This shot is used by Zanuck to give an idea of the vastness of the operation, and to show the viewer the number of lives that were lost even on a a small part of the coastline. As a significant part of this film’s original audience would have been involved in the war and specifically this operation, Zanuck focuses also on a sense of heroism in the characters, the courage and willpower in the most difficult of situations.
At the end of each clip, dialogue between two soldiers takes place, but the tones of voice, attitudes, reactions, and expressions of the characters couldn’t be more different. This scene in ‘The Longest Day’ seems staged and unemotive, as a young soldier is told to go back and get his rifle which he has dropped on the beach, because, as the General tells him, he’s “sure to need it before this day is over”. This sentence seems too structured to be realistic; in a war situation it wouldn’t be normal to come out with such a complex sentence.
However, the General reassures this young, frightened soldier and the short scene illustrates the kind of bonds that were created between troops. A feeling of security and trust is portrayed to the viewers in the father and son relationship we see on screen. The same scene in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ shows more spontaneity and realism as a young soldier screams to the commander “What the hell do we do now, sir?! “. He is panicking because he has no idea what he ought to be doing, but when he asks his commander he too has no clue.
There is much confusion and the audience feel uncomfortable and unsafe as we do not know the fate of the people we see before us. The characters are presented in different ways but the important thing that links both the scenes is why the director has decided to introduce the characters at all. By the introduction to the characters of the boy and his superior we start to care about their individual fates, and pathos is used over us to so that we become concerned over whether the characters live or die. Both directors use this to evoke sadness and pity among the audience.
One of the most important aspects of the clips to analyse is the directors’ presentation of war. ‘The Longest Day’ is an epic, giving an accurate, historical account of the D-Day landings. It conveys to the audience the bravery of the soldiers who fought in the war and the situations they had to deal with. A huge proportion of its original audience would have either fought in the war themselves or been closely related to someone who had, so the purpose of the film would have been to pay tribute to those people.
The purpose of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is different because almost none or even none at all of its audience would have fought in the war. Spielberg shows us the operation not just from a factual view but from an emotional view and shows us tragedies and horrors. Although the two clips cover exactly the same event we can see that they are very different in style, but even though they were made decades apart from each other there are also a similarities. By comparing and analysing these films so closely, we as an audience can begin to see into the directors’ minds and realise their hidden purposes behind making the film.
Subject: Closet drama,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 July 2017