Saving Private Ryan – Film about The World War II

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The Second World War was a terrible landmark in the history of mankind millions of people were killed and injured. Frightening atrocities revealed a part of the human nature never seen before. The classic clash of the good allies and the evil axis occurred on a scale and a way never seen before. No wonder films about the Second World War are so popular. Since the last world war there have been many films produced on the subject and there will be many more to come. However many of them depict a honourable, patriotic, righteous crusade against the evil twisted Nazis where boys were made into men and men made into heroes.

The true horror of war is never really revealed to its fullest extent. This is where ‘Saving Private Ryan’ comes into play. Its opening scenes show the gritty terrifying reality of the Second World War in a way never done before. It reveals the war not to be a righteous crusade, but a struggle for survival and victory that was carried out by normal men driven into being soldiers, and driven into killing, brought together and for a cause that was common and just, freedom. However for the soldiers this was only secondary to the longing for their homes and families and peace.

The opening is cut into two very different sections with very different scenes and pictures resulting in a powerful contrast between the peace and quiet, and the turmoil, pain, and despair. In both scenes camera angles, sound and music play a very important part in revealing the horror of war. The first scene is peaceful and quiet and it shows Private Ryan old and decrepit visiting the graves of his fallen comrades with his family. The emphasise on the American flag, the age of the man’s body, what he is feeling, and the graves brings about a strong atmosphere to the scene and starts to stir emotions within ourselves, the audience.

The cunning camera angles and deep patriotic sad music is used to great affect to create the atmosphere and mood. In the second scene things appear very different. The pictures are much more harsh the sound and objects much more threatening and there is a storm brewing in the weather and in tension for the soldiers and ourselves. We are following the camera up the beach with the soldiers at their level and this makes us get a better picture of the beach invasion from their view, and it is a gruesome view indeed.

There is no music in this part of the film the music is replaced by the loud dangerous sound of the battlefield. This part of the opening scene is what ‘Saving Private Ryan’ stands out for because it is so horrific and accurate. In the first scene we start with a close up shot of the American flag. It is blowing in the wind, and we can hear it flapping in the background. The music for the first scene is just starting. This is a good opening shot because the film is based around Americans and the flag we are shown is American, it is a sign of what the men in the war fought and died for and believed in.

It is subtle in colour and it is translucent with the sun shining through it from the other side. This shows that the flag is a sign of power, freedom and righteousness. The picture of the flag coupled with the quiet sad opening music reveals what is to come to an extent and what nationality the soldiers fought for. The next picture is one of Private Ryan walking along a path, him in front with his family behind him. This shows his pride and isolated feelings that his family do not feel as strongly for. He drags his feet, this shows us his age and that he has lived a long time.

There is also a shot of his family and a close up shot of his wife who is pleased he is here and smiles and at the same time is feeling empathy towards her husband and what he must be feeling. We can hear the distant rumble of the sea in the background. This is a peaceful relaxing sound and is in stark contrast to the sound of the sea in the second scene that is roaring and thrashing in anger. This change in the sound of the sea represents the change in scene and brings up the pace in the second scene making us feel frightened and much more alert to what is happening.

The angry sea represents the angry gunfire that is about to be heard and the turmoil that is about to start. When Ryan arrives at the rows of graves we see the emotion in his face before seeing the graves his eyes are tearful and filled with emotion and with the close up camera angle we can see his mouth opening gasping with emotion and trembling with feeling. This shows us what the man is feeling and how upset and distressed he is by seeing what he is seeing. We then get a low angle shot that follows the graves at their level as he walks through them.

Ryan looks around almost disbelieving and he is clearly shocked and memories are coming back to him of his friends and fellow soldiers. The camera angle then rises and we get a much fuller view of all the graves and we see the scale of the situation. The music begins to heighten at this point with Ryan’s emotions as he wanders through fields of the dead. Ryan falls to the ground at one grave and his family rush to him but the picture is still centred on Ryan. He is clearly feeling strong emotion and some of this rubs off on us.

We then are given a view away from Ryan and his family and are showed the rows of graves and move along at grave level and we are shown some names of the graves. This is an extremely sad stirring scene. Then the camera moves back to Ryan and his head lifts slowly us. The music comes to its peak and end as the camera slowly zooms in on his eyes we hear the sound of the sea getting louder with the music his mouth is trembling and we focus in on his two eyes. This is where the scene switches to the second scene.

The most memorable picture in the scene is this part where we zoom into to Ryan’s eyes and the story begins. The first scene is a good opening because it shows the relative peace and prosperity we experience now to the violence and fear experienced by the men in the war specifically the invasion of Omaha Beach. It shows the history and age of what happened and those who were involved. It shows us that many people died to protect our freedom that we take for granted today, it shows the terrible results of a terrible war and reminds us there us consequences for every one of our actions.

This scene is sad but still amongst the grief there is pride, this is revealed by the views of the flag and the music. There is a profound feeling of respect in this scene and Spielberg has done well to create this opening start to the film. The second scene is very much different to the first it is filled with loud noises and terrified screams. It gives us an accurate picture of what happened at Omaha beach and the picture given is not pleasant. It is not quiet and peaceful like the first scene. The first view we see is a slightly slanted camera view of a beach defence it is a harsh object and is made of metal.

This like the first picture in the first scene of the flag gives us a view of what is about to happen. We can hear the sea loudly as it rushes against the metal. Then the picture flicks to scenes of the landing craft that are being bombarded by spray from the waves. This is a harsh picture as we see the bent ducked down to avoid the spray and what is happening to them. The camera jerks up and down like we are viewing the other boats from a boat. This type of camera view makes us feel in the action and relate more to what the soldiers are seeing.

We then get a camera view going through the boat and the soldier’s faces and actions are shown. Each soldier is clearly worried about what is about to come and each are dealing with it in different ways. One man is drinking, another is eating, another man is breathing is deeply and slowly, and another man is crouching down and tensing his face. This brings us down to the level of the men and we relate to them a little more. It also reminds us these are just people like ourselves who do everyday things and are afraid.

The scene where the whistle blows and the first boat opens is the start of the turmoil of the scene. We get a shot of the front of the boat and then the bullets whizzing through it mowing down most of the men. This is terrible because we have just seen them alive previously and now they all have died in no more than a few seconds. We are also given a camera angle of the view behind the machine gun at the top of the beach fortress. This view is given a couple of times in the scene. We are shown a picture from the German machine gunners perspective and a view of the rolling gun barrel spewing out bullets.

To the Germans the men seem like ants and they exterminate them like ants. This is a very sadistic view, and shows us the horror of war and the way little remorse is shown and what has to be done is done. There is a very strong difference between the view we are given of the Germans high above the Allies and the Allies themselves beneath them. At the Allies soldier’s level we are shown shocking scenes and people in pain and above with the Germans they cant see the full extent of the pain and suffering they are causing.

When the men jump off the boat the camera follows them down. The camera tries to get the soldiers views throughout the scene and so I kept moving and the view isn’t stationary. This shows us the pace of the scene and how fast things are happening and how some many lives can be lost in such a small amount of time. The camera then darts about in the water watching bullets whiz through the water going into 2 men and it watches another man drown. This shows us the men have escaped one hell and only to go into another and they are truly in a lot of trouble.

When the camera is in the water there is very little sound compared with out of the water, this highlights the action and loudness of events happening outside the water but the events still are following them into the water and there is no escape. Religion is a way of coping for many of the men in the scene. A man kisses a cross and the driver of one of the boats shoats, “God be with you” other men pray they will survive. This is terrible because many of them die and their prayers seem hopeless. The camera then goes back to the soldiers view trying to go ashore, following Tom Hanks.

It dips under water after going up like a soldiers head, and when coming up again water drips off the camera. You can hear the men panting in the background this brings us closer to the men and closer to the reality of war. Tom Hanks drags a man out of the sea and they struggle ashore together and then as they make for cover behind a metallic sea defence the man is exposed and is shot in the chest. This brings out the hopelessness and depression the soldiers must be feeling seeing their closest friends die and dying and how human life can be lost so quickly and abruptly by the hand of modern warfare.

There are some very spectacular special effects in the film, one especially where a man’s leg is blown clean off with a mortar shell. This is very gripping because it is so horrific and disgusting. The fact that events like these actually happened shock the audience, and the horrors of war are brought out in their fullest. Another memorably horrific scene is where a man has had his belly burst open and he is lying on the floor calling, ‘Mother’, this is very upsetting and shows us the horrors of war.

When the sounds stop and the camera focuses on Tom Hanks we are given an eerie silence with only muffled explosions. The camera darts around looking at scenes the soldier is seeing, a exploding flame thrower man that sets light to those around him, a man without a arm looking around for his lost arm then finding it and wandering off. This reflects the terrible things happening all around the soldier and how horrific it all is. Tom Hanks almost goes into a trance of horror and fear as he stares around at the mayhem of war.

This beach scene shows men crawling around trying to find a haven away from the madness. They are desperate to escape the bullets and explosions and screaming men and take cover behind the beach defences. When Tom Hanks is going up the beach he finds a man unwilling to leave the beach defence and he is clearly terrified. This shows us that these men weren’t all brave heroes, many were far from it and they were forced into war. In the beach scene the colour is fairly grim the colours are all mainly shades of grey, this illustrates the grim dark unpleasant reality of war.

The only vibrant colours are of the blood, this makes it very effective in being shocking and horrible and making the blood of the wounded and dead stand out. This shows us war is about killing and people die. The dialogue in the second scene is very to the point and grim. When the men are on their way to the beach in the landing craft, “they are told to move fast and clear those murder holes”, “1 man don’t waste your ammo, 5 men don’t waste the opportunity”, and Tom Hanks says, “I’ll see you on the beach”. This makes us wonder when he sees the soldiers on the beach whether they will be alive or dead.

The emphasis by the commanders is not so much on human life but on victory, this is a depressing view on things for us but for them it was normal. The camera usually chooses to look at the soldier’s faces as they are dead or dying. This is because this is what shows the emotion and shows us the emotion. This look at the soldier’s faces shows us the horror and pain they are experiencing. The two scenes are very different. The first is peaceful as we follow the old man and his family about the graves, and the second is a hell on earth as people being mown down and massacred.

The quick change between the two makes us feel even more horrified to see the beach landing events because we have been given a peaceful scene beforehand. I think its hard to say what Spielberg wanted make from ‘Saving Private Ryan’ he may have wanted to make lots of money, in which case he decided to make a very shocking gritty realistic film because this is what interests many audiences. He choose one of the most well known tragedies of the war where thousands of people died and turned it into a form of moneymaking entertainment.

He also could of being trying to warn people about war. Educating them about the horrors of war and the pain and suffering many people endured to keep parts of the world free from tyranny and repression. In either case he did rather well creating an extremely shocking opening scene and a good opening to lead up to it. I expect he was trying to achieve both money through making people’s pain into entertainment and education through shocking people. Nevertheless Spielberg has done an excellent job of recreating the horrors of war.

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