Saving Private Ryan

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Sarah Rathje
IB Film 1
Saving Private Ryan
1998, dir. Steven Spielberg, Sound Designer Gary Rydstrom
War movies often rely on the visual to communicate the events and emotion of each scene. This works up to a point, but viewers cannot fully relive battle in this way. Background music and limited sound effects make war movies generic, predictable, and sometimes historically inaccurate. In contrast, Gary Rydstrom uses sound to communicate emotion and portray realistic battle scenes in a way that makes the viewers feel as though they are actually part of Saving Private Ryan.

One unique aspect of this movie, as opposed to other war movies, is that there is no background music in the battle scenes. Music in movies tends to make viewers realize they are watching the movie, but without it, the experience is so much more authentic. The battle scenes are shot with a handheld camera, giving them a shaky and chaotic feel. Because of this, the viewer does not really get the chance to experience the full breadth of the battle through the shot. Humans experience sound at all angles, as opposed to the one angle at which we experience sight. The dynamic sound effects of the battle scenes can completely engulf the viewer, helping them to have the full experience of trauma. Rydstrom paid particularly close attention to certain sound effects in these battle scenes to help them be as historically correct as possible. A variety of gunshot noises appear in each battle scene, each one corresponding to a different weapon. Also, a variety of distinct shot- impact noises illustrate the scene. The sound of the bullet hitting the soldier’s helmet in the beginning of the first battle scene is the beginning of many more shot-impact sounds to come, each representing a probably fatal wound. These shot- impact sounds enhance the viewer’s emotional response to a scene. They are so crisp that every time someone is shot, the viewer cringes and feels overwhelmed just like...
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