Saving Private Ryan

“Saving Private Ryan” was made in 1998, and was directed by Stephen Spielberg. The film stars Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore and Tom Hanks, who plays the leading role of Captain John Miller. “Saving Private Ryan” is about a squad on a dangerous mission. Led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks), the unit is under orders to track down a soldier, Private Ryan (Matt Damon), so he might return home to his mother in America, where she is grieving the unimaginable loss of her three other sons to the war. Spielberg also uses actual war photographs by Robert Capa, for realism.

The first unforgettable twenty minutes of the film realistically and horrifically depicts the Normandy invasion as John Miller; his second-in-command, Sergeant Horvath (Tom Sizemore); and the others in the unit land at Omaha Beach. They are veterans of World War II. It is D-day. This film is similar to the book “Heroes” by Robert Cormier. Just like the book, this film is to do with war, sacrifice and heroism. They are both also about ordinary young men/soldiers who have been placed in extraordinary circumstances. The film’s opening scene is in the present.

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The film starts off with music that has quite a slow pace and is heard quietly in the background. Already we have a sense of atmosphere; respect, dignity and pride. This makes us feel calm, yet somehow there is a hint of sadness. There other effects that a visible by sound, such as the wind blowing, over the gentle music. We are then given a close up of an American flag, which fills the whole screen, moving in the wind. This scene starts off slowly but gradually unfolds and we are then able to match the images and music with the situation, and begin to understand what has happened.

By these first few images of a person, we can assume that this is our main character. There is a close up of a man’s legs; they look slim, frail, weak and old. Just from this close up Spielberg has already told us a bit about what the character is going to be like. He starts walking forwards and even though we can see his weakness, he looks stable on the ground beneath him. Once again the American flag appears; this time it only fills half of the screen and is attached to a pole. The exact same shot is repeated again straight after, but with a French flag instead.

This first part of the scene is mainly about symbolically conveying the allied French/ US approach. Trying to gradually explain to us what has happened in the past to cause this scene in the present. Spielberg uses different shots on the camera to help tell us the story. Slow tracking into Close-ups of the man’s face show us his anxiety and pain in his expression; he looks as though he has suffered loss. The closeness of this image evokes the audience to empathise with his pain. The sounds of shallow breathing is in the background, from this we can sense he is getting increasingly anxious.

We are slowly drawn away from this character that we can now see is at a gravestone. We are taken to a long shot of the memorial graveyard that he is in. This takes us away from the personalised image of him grieving over one person. Spielberg gives us a different perspective, as we can now see that many more people have lost their lives. This film is to do with war, and we get a great sense of the many people who took part in this, by the amount of gravestones. Once again, personalising each image by firstly showing hundreds of crosses and the Jewish Star of David. Moving in to close ups of graves, each with a difference.

I can feel what it must have been like in the war just by seeing these images of gravestones. This is what Spielberg wants; to take us wherever this man goes. Through these images we see into his mind. A sea of white graves organised orderly in rows and columns. This gives a real sense of orderly soldiers, standing in their troops. The lone old man goes onto his hands and knees and we can see that he is in pain emotionally, as he starts to weep on the ground. We can understand more about the character’s psychological state just by the images of his face, and his body language.

Stephen Spielberg uses colour really effectively in this first part of the film. Everything is bright, to a certain extent. The sky is a greyed blue colour, there are images of white gave stones that have a hint of greyness as well. I suppose it gives us the normality of this present day. It also adds to the fact that we are in a cemetery. All of the colours are muted Up to this point there has been no dialogue, just music and sounds in the background. These are used to show how the character is feeling and to create tension that draws us in. It seems to be a kind of build up; something must be spoken soon, right?

For the first time we hear an important piece of dialogue. A key moment, the silence is broken. The shouting of one word from a little boy. “Dad! ” This appears to be quite emotive, as the boy sounds scared and upset; he runs away. An emotion filled close-up of the man’s face, showing pain and angst once again. Slow tracking is used once more, but this time zooming closer and closer gradually going into the man’s eye. The window to his sole. The director creates suspense and expectation just with the camera moving from a wide shot to a full on close up, oozing with emotion from his expression.

As this gradually occurs tension is built. We are going to look into his thoughts. Spielberg is taking us on a journey. We are then taken to a sudden change in atmosphere. We know this by the difference in sound, which leads us to thinking there, is a change in scenes. The sound of crashing waves is heard before it is seen, making us wait to see if the sounds match what we think are the visuals. Once the waves appear on the screen, it is visible that there are references to the work of photographer Robert Capa. The similarities are the fact that both pieces of work are to do with war and the content of the image.

The colours are similar in way, even though they are not exactly the same. Robert’s were war time black and white images. Spielberg shows the blueness of the sea, but in the same de-saturated and muted way. Only words on the screen: “June 6th 1944 dog sector Omaha Beach. ” There is already a very different contrast to the first scene of the film. Quiet mourning peace, calm background music and quiet sound effects. To no music, just loud sounds that have been brought forwards and that would have been background noises in the first scene.

This is a flashback to D-day, (June 6th 1944) Robert Cormier introduced us to flashbacks in his book with war (Heroes. ) Flashbacks make the piece interesting and give us some of the history, so we can find out why things have happened in the present. Everything happens for a reason. A whole ocean full of soldiers, those young ordinary guys put through so much pressure. We get a shocking image going across the waters, showing all of the young soldiers in the boats. A great technique is use that makes the camera seem shaky /jerky, and appear to be hand held. This adds to the effect and conveys the chaos and mayhem.

No other sound is heard apart from the waves that are still crashing. Spielberg gives us a long-wide shot that shows us all of the boats and soldiers at sea, really quite a shocking image showing the scale of the mission and the hundreds of young men sacrificing their lives. Once again the director is creating an expectation on the audience, jerky camera, long shot, something is being built up! We get close ups of individuals on one particular boat. The close-ups are very important in a situation like this in a film, as they show us exactly what is going through the person’s mind.

Personalising the film once again, trying to make us feel what they feel. This piece of action has become very personalised, detailed work. As the jerky camera goes through the boat we are noticing little quirks/ actions that each person is doing. It makes us feel like we know them. A soldier having a drink from his water bottle, he looks petrified; his hand is trembling with fear. The noise of the water in the bottle reaching his mouth. Young men, one after the other, repeatedly throwing up. The not so usually loud sound of chewing. These all give us a sense of reality, noises that we are familiar with.

There is just such immense audio detail. Spielberg is just taking us back to reality for a moment, partly to remind us that these are normal men in extraordinary circumstances; and also to prepare us for the journey ahead. This is just too much to take on board for us and men that young, so scared. Knowing that they have to do their country proud, but at the same time knowing that there is a huge chance they won’t come back alive. 20 seconds, see you on the beach” Final orders that we hear being shouted across the boats. The sound is muffled, I suppose because what they are about to do just hasn’t hit them or sunk in yet.

Spielberg keeps us involved with these continuous images of war. We hear the shouting muffled as well, so we are involved. Spielberg is asking us to take the point of view of the people in the boat. Muffled speech, but the background noises are perfectly clear, we are hearing the things we want to hear and zoning out on the things we don’t believe. One boy is praying, looking above and then holding his head below kissing his crucifix. Already we are not seeing images of the heroic side of what war is/ will become. We are seeing the terror when being prepared to fight, and all of the other gory details.

It’s not as glamorous as it seems which is what we are being told. I am now a soldier! Spielberg has placed me at the back of the boat. I am now part of this! First shot from the German machine gun post. It happens suddenly, the camera shakes. A whole host of people, chucked out of boats onto land, easy deaths, killed instantly. A terrible image of war. I am left till last, being at the back of the boat. I felt the tension, I was scared. All that worrying; fear and some of their lives are over in just a few seconds. Spielberg does it so well. Sowing us and letting us experience these images of war.

Trying to make us equate with the fear, there is no drama, it is all in point of view. The German machine gun post shot is show to us as something evil. It is the enemy to us and to them. It seems rather large, as it is close to us, and near the front of the screen. The point of view has switched, and we are looking out at sea from behind the machine gun post. But we can not be associated with it as we are in the boats, we know that. One soldier gets knocked down by a bullet and goes under water, it turns red instantly. This is an area of the film that I think stands out most for me as an image of war.

It might not be the most gruesome war like image, but the message behind it is exact. We can appreciate through Spielberg’s choice of shot what it feels like being in that situation. We are shown two different worlds under water and above ground. Both we experience with the soldier. There is a sense of safety being in the water, the calmness and quietness. Above ground from the water we can see the mayhem of war. Staying in the water seems like the only option. But then there is that one downside. Drowning. Both worlds are distressing and there is no way away from it.

This definitely doesn’t seem like the life of a war hero having to make choices, both leading to death. We hear and see what it is like to be under water, it seems like the world is in slow motion even though we know it isn’t. The director keeps the camera low and the frame tight, we can only see the compact fighting world that we are in; we are only allowed to see what’s behind the barricade. The enemy is in the position of power for their next shot. The black, shadowed evil machine, taking over the screen is behind us, the soldiers. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. As we can see by the strong red of the soldiers blood.

People are trying to hide for cover wherever it possible, trying to save their own lives. When you think about it, they came together to fight as a team, but really it’s every man for himself as no one wants to die. Another soldier is hit. We are able to understand the use of Spielberg’s effect that was used under water. The soldier has shell shock, it seems as though he is deaf, and we are too as we are still on that journey with them. He roles up into a ball, a frightened, disorientated soldier. He is in his own world with us. Everything seems blurred. He’s trying to make sense of things.

We in overload with our senses, so much so that hearing has become blocked. Because of this we are shown stronger visual images of war. There is a fiery orange, deathly explosion, isn’t heard but seen by both of us. Spielberg shows us this with images of a soldier is searching for his arm, after having it blown off. Another soldier is lying on the ground screaming in agony at the fact that his intestines are hanging out. We can really see the gory and bloody side of war. These things that are being shown in the film aren’t even things you would dream of in nightmares, they are that bad.

This film is very realistic; this is why we are drawn into it as a part of it. But these images are now being seen as double images that are blurred. Not only has the soldier’s hearing been blocked, but now the sight. It is happening to us as well, as we are in that soldier’s point of view once again. The sound has come back. We are brought back with no superior knowledge or dramatic irony. We know what they know. Gradually we start to see more than what’s inside the box that Spielberg allowed us to see before. We are seeing higher shots, shots showing power. We are continuing on our journey

They try to regroup before the fourth shot. People have been given orders, but I don’t think that there is any point in even trying to give orders in a situation like that. Every man for himself. There is a definite communication problem between soldiers; we receive the same problem, as it becomes hard to hear them. People are still pretty shook up about war, and hands are still shaking, it is not getting any easier. For the second time we are being allowed out of the box, but for privileged information. We step out of their views and into our own, as we see soldiers working on a fellow soldier who has been terribly injured.

Spielberg made us feel claustrophobic being in a tense area of fighting for so long, not we get to see things from our perspective. There is still a sense of irony. A man gets shot in his helmet; he takes his helmet of to see the damage and then actually gets shot in his head. It seems quite ironic, but I suppose being in extraordinary situations like that must affect the way you think and how fast you react to something. We hear the fifth shot from the machine gun. Once again, it seems to be knocking people out like flies. Looking at the shot from a distance, it’s like a pack of cards falling down one by one.

More horrific images of war, the amount of people killed, and the shock of their instant deaths. The remaining soldiers reach the slopes, getting closer to the pill box. They hide for cover behind the slopes, it seems like they are having a long break; but in a situation like this they must be on their feet the whole time and having to be ready to run or attack. They’ve got to keep moving even if they are in pain. The adrenaline rush must be huge, they are running, shooting, and collecting weapons off of people that have been killed. At this point Spielberg id still using the camera shakes.

It could possibly be showing the nerves of the men, and how they are moving so fast there is no time to keep still. We, as an audience, travel with them. Spielberg also creates a sense of panic with their movement, which is conveyed through the camera. At the next slope we see a familiar face, the man that kissed the crucifix earlier on. Small details help us to remember the characters and make us feel as if we know them. He starts to pray again. There are moments of calm. Where the soldiers have time to think and plan, but not very long. A lot of shooting and moving, they are face to face shooting the enemy.

The opponents finally surrender. They slowly close in on them and kill them. Exciting tense moment. We have been involved so much; the death of the opponents makes us feel relief, just like the soldiers. The Film “Saving Private Ryan” is quite similar to the book “Heroes” by Robert Cormier. They are about showing us what really goes on and happens during war. We see/hear everything soldiers have to go through physically and emotionally. How once they have fought in war their lives change forever. We find out that war isn’t something that people go into to save lives, be heroic, get all the praise and not get hurt.

It’s a dog eat dog world, and in there different ways both the film and the book show us this. War isn’t something to be taken likely; it is about saving live lives, fighting for your country, whilst trying to protect yourself at the same time. People died, killed in very brutal and horrific, blood thirsty ways; people scarred emotionally by the whole experience and the whole horror of the event playing on their mind. This all happens to men of a very young age, so much so they might not even be called men yet, some even teenagers. It is a lot of pressure, and sometime they’ve got to crack.

This is what Robert Cormier shows us in the book “Heroes” Where Francis Cassavant, suffers emotionally and physically, by his feelings and severe facial disfigurements. He then let the girl he loved get raped, he almost committed suicide, and he nearly killed someone else. And I’m sure it will occur later on in this film, as I think this is what the director will want to put across, how much war can affect you as a person. The book and the film show how unglamorous war can be and the other side to what we believe. Neither try to hide it and make it out to be an amazing experience, they show it for what it really is.

Every gory detail of it shown/told in all its truth. I think that Spielberg successfully shows us images of war in an emotive way that makes us understand what the soldiers are going through. He creates an attack on our senses and an assault on our ears. There are only small areas of calm so deafness is a relief. Spielberg uses shocking visuals, with strong, perhaps emotive sounds. “Saving Private Ryan” gives us a great sense of reality, which makes the impact on us as the audience huge. A shocking film that gives us the truth behind going to war.

Saving Private Ryan

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 filmFive times Academy Award winner, “Saving Private Ryan” shows the adventures of eight men risking their lives against impossible odds. Director, Steven Spielberg captures the true essence of war behind enemy lines through the eyes of Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks. Not only depicting the harsh brutality of war, but also showing deaths personified. This unconventional account of the Second World War shows the cruel reality of fighting for your country that has turned this Oscar winning film into a timeless classic.A conventional war film would show the heroic saviours single-handedly winning the war; the good guys win and the bad guys always lose. Except in this film, it shows that both sides are neither good nor evil. They do not fall into those categories. Each side have a deserter or a coward and a merciless killer. It shows us what we tend to forget about war – the enemy, if that is what they truly are, are people too.The film opens onto a close-up of the American flag fluttering in the wind with a bright blue sky behind. Then you watch as an elderly man walks along a path in what seems to be a park. He is followed closely behind by a mixture of children and adults, each with a concerned expression. The man continues to walk, and then abruptly turns left to gaze forward. As the camera zooms in on his face, we notice the calm sea in the background. It then shows equal mid shots of a French flag and an American flag fluttering in the breeze. Then you see a mid shot of hundreds upon hundreds of graves. The camera follows him as he walks towards something only he can see from a low angle. As it follows him, the camera is obscured by graves shown out of focus; blocking the view repeatedly, but still showing the rows upon rows of graves. Then it zooms in, as the man runs to kneel at a grave. Tears fill his eyes as the camera does an extreme close-up of his face, with the camera just glimpsing his family running in close behind. For this entire scene, bright colours are used and it is quite modern.Throughout most of the scene inspirational military music is used, with a marching drumbeat, played forte. You can hear birds singing in the background, which gives an impression of calm or even new life, which makes the entire scene contradictory and sad. The fact that you could have something as beautiful as birdsong in a place that is filled with something as dark as death shows a dramatic confliction of themes. The waves in the background join the rhythm of the man as he walks along, giving a military style of marching, tying in with the drums. The only other sounds are as the man sobs quietly by the grave. The graves in the picture seem to go on forever, in straight rows; as though they are infinite. The uniform rows give the essence of formality and embellish the military theme.This scene then quickly moves to a rough view of boats fighting against the spray of the sea. Soldiers cower in the corners. The camera gives a mid-shot of the rough sea crashing against the boats. This is the complete opposite of the calm blue ocean shown in the previous scene. The camera then shows a tracker shot as it shows each soldier in turn. The camera is sprayed with the water as it is jolted about on the boat. Then the camera faces the door as it opens and is suddenly propelled forward out of the boat and into the sea and under the water. The person represented by the camera struggles to get out of the water. It shows others falling in the water, struggling, drowning and dying. Then we see a midshot of the battlefield with people rushing past, obscuring the view and the beach barricades block the picture. The camera then continues to show an overall view of the battle, occasionally switching to tracking and getting covered in blood or spattered with flying debris. Horrific sights meet the audience as we see soldier upon soldier fall.The camera then zooms into Captain Miller, the sea washing in crimson behind him, as though death itself is washing over him. The sky throughout this scene is dark grey and very cloudy; using pathetic fallacy as the mood is very miserable and the sky reflects this. In this scene, many sound effects are used, such as the loud crashing of the waves and bullets whizzing past. Most of the scene is understandably in forte to fit in with the mood and the sounds fluctuate throughout the scene. Most of the vocals heard are officers shouting orders or men screaming as they die. The screaming is mainly individual as the camera does a close up of the dying man’s face. This reminds the audience that the soldiers shown are only young boys caught up in a war, which has nothing to do with them. The close up effect shows the last moments of his life as it slips away, and how no matter how brave they are all of the men end up the same in death. Captain Miller’s voice is always the loudest and seems to take control over the other sounds in the scene.When the camera is used underwater, it takes on some human characteristics. It takes possession of human hearing, as when the camera struggles to stay above the water all the sounds are forte and when the camera ducks under the surface the sounds, if there are any, are piano or muffled. You can almost hear the blood pounding in his ears. This familiarisation brings the audience right into the film.As we move away from the beach, the camera gives provides a close up of Captain Miller. It then switches to track as he watches a man dying. The edge of the screen is slightly blurred which gives the impression of confusion and a sense of being lost. It shows that he’s feeling that what he’s witnessing isn’t quite real or he isn’t really there, in a dream like state. The scene continues in a similar fashion with various horrifying mid shots of soldiers dying or being torn to pieces. The sound throughout the scene is dull and muted and even though Captain Miller can see people yelling it at him, as though the roles are reversed and he is the private, he cannot hear or comprehend what they are saying. All of these factors contribute to give the scene a distinct feeling of loneliness and displacement that only ends when Captain Miller replaces his helmet. This signifies his return to his military duty.The following scene is mainly composed of mid shots of the battlefield. Showing soldiers grouping together and shouting orders. The camera flicks past men lying in the mud, dying and you watch as you see people running on by, ignoring the dying men. The camera varies occasionally using high shots, close ups and tracking. Throughout the scene the camera focuses mainly on the horrific images in the battle field but it also shows small things that remind the audience that the men aren’t just soldiers. A flash of a wedding ring, the begging as the men die, shows that these men are human too.In the scene, the camera does another close up of Captain Miller, which looks as though the camera is showing his minds eye. This is similar to the begging of the film when the man was kneeling in front of the graves, which therefore makes the audience incorrectly suspect that the man in the begging was Captain Miller. When the camera does this action, the beach as a result of the battle.The camera shows an overall sweeps of the scene, showing countless dead bodies covering the beach which reminds the audience of the begging of the film and the endless grave stones. As the camera shows the red sea washing in over the bodies, as though trying to was away the death, the viewer is suddenly struck by the fact that all of the battle has occurred on a beach. The hundreds of dead fish reinforce this and reminds us that everything is affected by war. The chaos and destruction makes the audience forget that the place is actually a beach, which creates a conflict as a beach usually symbolises a happy place. The camera shows close ups of the barricades on the beach which reflect the graves from the begging and also seemingly infinite. Finally the camera shows a close up of a man lying face down dead in the sand with the name ‘Ryan’ clearly printed on his back pack. This makes the audience question the title. Is it too late to save Private Ryan?In conclusion, in my opinion the opening scenes are a perfect introduction to this modern war thriller. Keeping the audience wondering throughout the film, until all is revealed at the end. The introduction shows the main principles that Steven Spielberg has worked to his advantage and giving a small glimpse of the many battles and deaths that lie ahead of the courageous team in search of Private Ryan.


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