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Saving Private Ryan- A literary Perspective

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Saving Private Ryan


Saving Private Ryan is about heroism, the sanctity of life and the tragedies of war. The film was made in 1998 by Steven Spielberg and is based on the true story of four brothers that are in the American Army in World War 2. The effect of desaturated colour helps to create a dark mood to the film and because it is not a happy film, the director (Spielberg) does not use strong vibrant colours. The film was completely different from any war film made previously and had a huge affect on how films in general are made today. In most films previous to Saving Private Ryan they are biased to one side and does not give the full picture. Audiences were not shown the full gore and horror of war and directors concentrated more on the heroism of a particular person or group of people. Steven Spielberg makes the scenes incredibly realistic by making the actors wear replicas of real uniforms and equipment from the time. He has also incorporated tactics and feeling to the soldiers to make the story feel more real. In the opening battle scene they use handheld cameras to make the audience feel that they are one of the soldiers on the beach and not just someone watching from the sidelines.

At the beginning of the film the only thing we can hear is a military snare being played, but as the grandfather moves across the grass a violin and brass section are added. When the violins are added it suddenly helps to make the audience feel sorry for the man even though they do not know what has brought him here. As the man crouches at one of the graves the camera moves in for a extreme close up on his face and then just his eyes. When the camera moves in on his face the military music fades away and is replaced with the sounds of waves crashing onto a beach a few seconds before the camera moves back in time to Dog Green Sector Of Omaha Beach, D-Day. In one of the boats that are heading for the shore, the camera concentrates on a Captain standing behind his men. This shows that the Captain is one of the main characters in the film. A lot of tension and anxiety is shown in the way the Captains hand is shaking and the way every soldier is very quiet. As the metal ramp falls onto the shore the soldiers are suddenly fired upon by German machine gunners up on the cliff and are forced to jump over the side of the boat. For a few seconds the camera switches to the point of view of the Germans as they fire upon the Americans that are desperately trying to find cover. When the hand held camera is underwater it looks around and sees men drowning from the weight of there equipment. The only thing you can hear is the sound of bullets whizzing through the water and everything else is almost muted. As it moves towards the shore it dips up and down in the waves and occasionally moves above water and the audience are given a partial sound of what awaits them on the beach. When the camera gets onto the beach it shows men being maimed and killed by mines and constant gunfire. The camera spins around to see Captain Miller staggering out of the water. And a mine goes off right in front of him. As this happens a ringing sound is added to show what the Captain can hear. The Captain is looking around the battlefield in confusion as the sound gradually gets louder and louder until it suddenly switches back to the normal sounds.

He scrambles to find cover and get his men on order and urges his men to continue forward. This is a very chaotic moment where the soldiers have no idea what to do and there is a lot of confusion. When he orders the charge the camera moves up and down as it follows them to mimic the movement of someone running. At the base of one on the bunkers the realism is shown in the way he orders his men to suppress a enemy position and then get his men to run to another place. They emphasize the realism by mentioning tanks that were supposed to be on the beach but never got there. When the men get to the top of the hill they are meet by an equally confused enemy that are retreating and fighting in close quarters. Many of the enemy are shot as they are running away or trying to surrender. This shows that there is evil on both sides and the film is not just good versus evil. At the end of the battle Captain Miller and Sergeant Horvath are looking over the beach. The camera moves up the beach looking at the bodies from a bird’s eye view until it sees a body lying face down in the sand, which is when it zooms in showing the name on the backpack. It says Private James Ryan. From the beginning of this part of the scene sad music like the music used in the opening sequence is used to emphasize the tragedy of the assault.    

The opening sequence sent the audience deep into the action very quickly. It was shocking and often shows parts of horror in it to increase the shock. It made people believe that they were part of the action and were actually there fighting alongside those men and not just watching from the sidelines. It showed the action from both sides and made both the Americans and Germans look or have an essence of evil in them. It depicted legs being blown off, arms on the beach, blood everywhere including a red sea and guts hanging outside of people. Still it did not forget to include the realistic tactics, equipment and people needed to make the scene truly believable.

Steven Spielberg managed to put chaos up on the screen but without losing any other things that were essential for the scene. For instance when one of the guys on the boat is shot in the head it does not fill the screen with blood and gore but used it in small quantities.

The film is very good, realistic, shocking and even funny at times. It showed the true essence of what it must have been like at that time.

Alexander Manley

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