Saving Private Ryan
Images of war are always haunting. The opening 24-minute sequence
of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is memorable for its portrayal of the loss
of human life as well as the magnitude of the devastation of the
D-Day invasion. Knowing it is 24 minutes helps a bit since the
action is disturbing and seemingly endless. As quickly as it rolls,
it ebbs and then fires back at you. There is chaos and there is
fear. Both consume you.
Sitting in the theatre I thought about the vast number of books and
movies which have been written/made about this war. I thought about
all the references in books --- fiction and non fiction --- which
have been influenced by this war. My own personal favorites have
always been THE WINDS OF WAR and WAR AND REMEMBRANCE. I recall
devouring the books and watching each of the mini-series programs
with rapt attention.
Saving Private Ryan is something different. There is no romance.
There is a constant hardness to the film which makes it chilling;
there is no relaxing during this movie. Shot after shot is
beautifully done, if such a thing is possible in a film so packed
with horror and loss. Constantly I was seeing the images as stark
photos rather than just movie images.
The companion book to the movie from Newmarket Press --- SAVING
PRIVATE RYAN --- includes historical references as well as
background on the making of the film. Reading the comments from
Janusz Kaminski --- the movie's cinematographer --- explained a lot
to me. He defined the process which created the semi-documentary
scenes that moved me. The photos on the pages which accompany his
remarks show the shots in both full color and then desaturated
about 60% --- the way we see them in the film. This desaturation
process gives the footage the burned-out bleary look which is so
effective. It casts a pall. There is not one shot of blue sky ---
This is a story of human loss. The enormity of the loss is shown in
the endless lines of crosses and stars in the cemetery, in the dog
tags that are counted by the soldiers like poker chips, and the
telegrams that are shuffled at the war office. The images in the
book intensify the experience. I poured over them as I had the
photos from the making of Titanic.
Yes, it is the story about delivering the Ryan brother who survived
home safely. And people will flock to the theatres just to see this
played out. But fraternity and brotherhood among men who are not
blood brothers is the uplifting moment.
I wish I had seen this film with someone who had been in the D-Day
battle. I would still love to hear comments from someone who was
I purposely did not open the book till after I had seen the movie.
Reading it enhanced and clarified my experience which is exactly
what one hopes from a work like this. What went into
creating the realism of the footage provided interesting
Reviewed by Carol Fitzgerald on January 23, 2011