Analyse the methods used to make the opening battle sequence of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ both shocking and realistic, and say how effective you find it as an introduction to the film
Saving Private Ryan was a war movie; it won five academy awards including best director. Steven Spielberg has directed many fantastic and exciting films in the past, including ‘Jaws’ and ‘Jurassic Park,’ each of which have a cast full of famous actors and actresses. Saving Private Ryan is no different, with its lead actors including Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore and Matt Damon. Spielberg once said about the film “I was looking for realism all the time,” and he uses this realism he mentioned to make the film so gripping and realistic to the audience. You would expect the film to build up to the war from the beginning, but Spielberg sets the film off with an exciting battle scene. The battle scene is very realistic, as well as the rest of the film, because of the use of desaturated colour, which makes it seem like you are at the battle scene and makes it look dull and add to the atmosphere, and your sight has been blurred by blood or rain, and the variety of camera shots used like the handheld shot which makes the film come to life and makes the audience feel like their experiencing it first hand. Steven Spielberg didn’t want this film to be glamorous, but honest. Steven Spielberg didn’t hold back he went all out to make this film what is a truly shocking and realistic and a brilliant portrayal of war. Finally, the realistic nature of the film shows the audience what war is like first hand. The scene opens with a 24 minute amazing battle sequence that is without a doubt one of the finest half-hours ever committed to film.
The opening scene is 24 minutes long. I have spilt it up into four main parts; the first of those parts is an immediate transaction from present to past. In the opening scene, the camera zooms in on an American flag waving about in the wind and in the background there is some calming and peaceful music. This makes the audience feel a sense of pride and patriotism for their country. The color of the flag is desaturated to give more effect to the atmosphere and to make the flag stand out more. After that there is a slow zoom of an elderly man walking in front of his family, this tells the audience that the elderly man is one of the main characters in the film. The man walks further along the path, then the camera changes and focuses on an American flag then a French flag. Both of these flags are above an entrance leading to a vast grave yard. A long camera shot is used to show the thousands of graves of the soldiers who died in battle, this makes the audience realize how many people actually died in the war. The elderly man then walks up to one specific grave and he falls to his knees and emotianlly breaks down. This makes the audience feel and realize that war can still make you cry and make you feel pain after so many years. The camera slowly zooms into his face until it is an extreme close up, then the transition form present to past is made. This makes the audience feel like they travelled back in time with him into his memory on the 6th of June 1944 when the Americans had to defeat the Germans and take over Omaha beach. The camera then cuts to a shot of iron hedgehogs scattered around the beach in every direction, this shows the audience how big the task is going to be to defeat the Germans, and then the camera cuts to a shot of a boat and in there are some soldiers who are waiting nervously in it. You can hear the sound of the waves crashing against the boat and the engine propelling them towards the shores of Omaha beach. A long shot is used to show how many boats there are, and then it cuts to a close up of Captain Miller’s hand shaking uncontrollably this shows the audience just how nerve racking it must have been for them knowing that they might die that day. It is silent on the boat and that silence is broken when soldiers start to vomit. The close up shot is used to show the fear on the soldiers faces. This creates an atmosphere filled with fear, anxiety and this scene also introduces us to the main characters in the film.
This is a preview of the whole essay
In the second section of the opening scene it is calm in the fist scene, but then all hell breaks lose on the second scene. It is silent on the boat and that silence is broken when soldiers start to vomit. The close up shot is used to show the fear on the soldiers faces. Then suddenly the driver’s voice can be heard over the waves and engine and the doors open. Soldiers are killed instantly, a bloody onslaught as the Germans fire at the helpless Americans mercilessly. An over the shoulder shot is used to show the Germans perspective of them firing at the enemy, this makes the audience feel that the Germans have got the most power between the both sides. Some of the soldiers jump overboard as they try and escape from the wall of bullets but there’s nowhere to hide. The camera goes in the water with them the sound becomes muffled, soldiers struggle to stay afloat due to their heavy gear one is shown drowning and some are even hit by bullets underwater. The soldiers try franticly to get to the shores but many didn’t make it. The camera then comes up and out of the water, this makes the audience feel like there seeing what a surviving soldier is seeing. A hand held camera is used to make the audience feel that there are apart of the action. There is no dialogue in this scene just shouting this represents that there is no time for speaking. Shots of solider running for cover are used to show the mayhem and confusion. High angle shots are used to once again show that the Germans have more power and that they are wining at this moment in time. This shows the audience that is was an achievement just getting to the beach without being killed, soldiers also have to go through watching people that they know or related to being killed and knowing the fact they can’t do anything about it. The camera zooms out and shows us some of the destruction and carnage of the bombs and a man trying to find his arm in the pile of bodies because it was ripped off, this makes the audience feel how much pain and the suffering the soldiers have to go through on the D-Day landing.
This is the third scene which focuses on Captain Miller and his confusion and the way in which he reacts to the difficulty of the task ahead and his absolute shock. Again this reinforces the confusion that the inexperienced recruits must have been experiencing and really makes the audience think. The scene begins with Captain Miller staggering out of the bloodied sea, the camera focuses on his face to show the reactivity of his expression and then zooms to a close-up and then extreme close-up as he is seeing the battle, the audience does not need to see what he is seeing because from the expression on his face you are able to realise the horror that he is witnessing. As the camera is focusing on Captain Miller the sound of war becomes muffled and quite. During the muffled period the camera gives different shots of the war in slow motion showing people being shot and killed, it shows the battle from Captain Miller’s perspective. The audience is plunged into the battle on D-day beside Captain Miller; this effect helps the audience to experience the senseless battle like one of the inexperienced soldiers would have. The audience are shown once again war is a horrible thing and that no matter how big or brave you are it can always make a person frightened, as grown men are shown emotionally breaking down on the beach and shouting for their mothers. The audience is then shown the medics who are trying there best to keep the men alive, as they are trying to treat an injured man he is shot in the head one of the medics shouts at the Germans as if he says give us a break. This makes the audience feel that the Germans have no mercy and don’t care. This shows the audience how unfair and cruel war actually is, again the hand held cameras are used as the soldiers crawl along the beach this shot is used to give a sense that you’re actually in the movie and experiencing what a soldier is experiencing, the hand held camera also never stays still for a long period of time this make the scene even more realistic than usual.
The final of the four scenes is after the battle has ended Captain Miller is with Sergeant Horvath assessing the battlefield after their victory and reflecting on what had just happened. It is a very simple scene but one of the most effective, on the audience. Sergeant Horvath says to Captain Miller ‘that’s quite a view’ and he agrees and repeats the phrase again. The camera then tracks across the beach from a high angle showing the vast amount of deaths and the bloody see, this shows the audience how many people died that day, this links back to the first scene when the camera tracks across the graveyard. Both of the tracking angles show the amount of deaths giving the audience an idea of just the sheer number of how many innocent people gave their lives for their country. During the tracking again like the in the first scene the music is very slow and honourable to show respect for the dead and to calm the audience down. The piece and tranquillity is a total contrast for the audience after seeing the battle. The audience is now reeling at the magnitude of the event and the sheer number of deaths. After tracking along the beach the camera slows down and begins to zoom into one of the bodies lying on the beach. The camera continues to zoom on to the bag on the back of the body until the name Ryan can be seen this. This final shot of the bag links the four scenes and mainly the final scene with the title and plot of the film. For the audience the final shot makes the four previous scenes sensible and is nicely linked.
In conclusion, Steven Spielberg created a truly realistic and shocking opening to Saving Private Ryan; he does this by using brilliant camera shots like the hand held camera which makes the audience feel that there in the battle scene, and the realism of the explosions and the blood and gore. Unlike any other war movie this movie focuses on a particular group of people not just the fighting. I think Steven Spielberg does not glorify war in the film, but uses realistic battle scenes to show people what war really is, leaving them to make their decision on what they think of war. Although the film isn’t true Steven Spielberg made the audience believe it was real by using the variety of different and effective camera shots, it was like he was there filming while it was happening. Unlike many of there other war films many of the main characters died in the movie. This film clear that one of Spielberg’s key aims throughout the shooting of this film was to hit the screens with a sense of realism that had never before been achieved. In my opinion these first few scenes epitomize the term ‘realistic’ in revolutionary fashion and prepare the audience in a unique sense, for the rest of the film. Not only do these scenes establish themselves to be absolute works of art but they precede a further hour of astonishingly realistic footage. This film in my opinion is one of the best war movies ever to be shown on the big screen, thanks to the director Steven Spielberg.