How Effectively Does the Opening Sequence of "Saving Private Ryan" Convey the Sadness and Horror of War?

Topics: Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg, Horror film Pages: 5 (1921 words) Published: February 24, 2008
"Saving Private Ryan" first wowed audiences and critics alike when it was released by Steven Spielberg in 1998. It was watched by millions worldwide and won 5 Oscars including best director. SPR was not your average war film. Most war films prior to SPR were much less shocking; they dealt with heroism and patriotism, not the grizzly reality of war; there was very little actual death. SPR is a stark contrast to these action-adventure type films. From the opening scene you are stunned by the gritty nature of the film: innocent soldiers are ripped apart by bullets and the death count is constantly rising. Did Spielberg achieve his aim of complete emulation of war? Or did he end up with just another action-adventure film like so many others?

The first scene really hits home the horrors of war. A mass grave in France is the setting; there are countless numbers of white crosses, each symbolizing a death caused by the war. The viewer is shocked by this as they are not expecting such tragedy so early in the film. This is also true of the second scene. All the crosses are in a perfect line, uniform and pure white, this is a huge dissimilarity to the reality of war. It all looks very peaceful. This contrast is highlighted in the next scene. One word that could be used to describe the second scene is: hell. The boats the soldiers arrive on are dull and create an air of foreboding, almost like a purgatory for the hell that awaits them. As soon as the doors open you see this hell: a dark, desolate seascape filled with jagged metal crosses. Bullets rain down creating a real atmosphere as sand and blood flies everywhere blocking soldiers' vision and ultimately killing them. The grey bunkers that the bullets rain down from are like the devil's henchmen punishing the sinners. These crosses could be compared to the crosses In the first scene, like a warped, evil version of them that can lead to the comparison of the first scene and heaven; this is effective at showing the sadness and horror of war as it contrasts with the hellish second scene.

Ryan appears as a normal looking old man in the first scene, but his face is filled with emotion. You can really tell he cares about where he is going. He walks calmly but is clearly filled with anticipation; this is shown by the way he stops for a moment to look over the cemetery. His mouth is open, aghast as though he is breathing deeply to get to grips with what he is seeing. All this shows that this place is deeply important to him. It means so much to him that he breaks down eventually at the heart of the cemetery. At the end of the first scene the camera zooms onto his face and you can see that his eyes are the same colour as the sea. This shows that the next scene is his memory and it's coming from him because in the next scene the first shot is of the sea. In the next scene Miller is a relatively young man but has a similar look of anticipation to Ryan but Miller has a look of fear as well, you see his hand shaking which also gets across this terror of the conflict to come. Other soldiers on the boats look equally scared: a couple of them vomit which shows just how terrified they are. The soldier driving the boat shouts "God be with ya!" to the rest of the soldiers showing that he knows that they all have a bleak future ahead of them. Such bleakness would make the audience feel similar feelings as the soldiers of ominousness. This theme of the soldiers turning to God continues after this when one soldier crosses himself and another kisses a cross that he is carrying around his neck. These actions show that they think that only the most powerful entity in the universe could help them now. They react to being sprayed with water, possibly from a bomb in the water, with grim faces of foreboding and rightfully so because most of them are just seconds away from death. Just as we are given a moment to get to know these soldiers slightly, most of them are killed as the gates open and the...
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