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Saving Private Ryan

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Saving private Ryan

How does Spielberg use the opening sequence of "Saving Private Ryan" to create an interesting cinematic experience for the audience?

"Saving Private Ryan" is an entertaining and moving motion picture set in 1944 during the 2nd World War. Stephen Spielberg who is one of the world most renowned film directors having masterminded "Star Wars," "Jurassic Park" and "Jaws", directed the film. He also has tackled controversial topics such as: the Holocaust, slavery, war, and terrorism.

In any film the first sequence is unquestionably the most important section of the entire film; as it has to be interesting as well as create an experience that the audience is interested by. Spielberg definitely had this in mind when he was working on the first sequence of "Saving Private Ryan."

Throughout this essay I will be discussing how Spielberg uses the first sequence to create an interesting cinematic experience for the audience. Spielberg exploits four main cinematic devices to generate an attention grabbing cinematic encounter for the viewers. The four main devices are: signifiers, imagery, sound and camera angles. Signifiers are also knows as symbols they are the directors way of telling the audience something without verbal communication between characters. Imagery is any literary reference to the five senses (sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste). Essentially, imagery is any words that create a picture in your head. Using figures of speech such as similes, metaphors, personification, and assonance can create such images. Sound can be split in to two subheadings; the first being music that could be played by an orchestra. The second is deijic sound, which is sound that reflects what you would be able to hear if you were present at the event, in context, the sounds of war. Camera angles are the way the camera is positioned or moved over a set there are 8 key camera shots in every film. They are: Pan, zoom, middle shot up above, tracking, close up, from below, and long shot. However I will only be using the latter four.

Spielberg's masterpiece employs and utilises a variety of signifiers to produce a reaction from the audience. This is done without the use of dialogue or imagery, which produces an emotional response from the audience and engulfs them in this groundbreaking film.

At the commencing of the film the audience see a star spangled banner in a full screen shot making it look very important to the audience. However Spielberg creates an oxymoron by making the flag translucent and fragile; because of the flags lifelessness it signifies to the audience that something is wrong. The in imperfections in the flag suggest to the audience that American pride had been dented and damaged. A new vibrant flag would symbolise strength and power, but the aged flag portrays the wound in America's pride. The flag is covering the sun, and the sun could be interpreted as the truth in relation to what happened in the war. Over time this charade has been eroded until it no longer covers the dark secrets of the war. This has a profound effect on the audience, seeing the contradicting symbols makes them speculate on the legitimacy of what the American government has been telling them over the last half century. This put doubt in to the mind on the viewer and makes them think that this film will inform them of the truth, accurately and without motive to protect an administration from criticism. By doing this Spielberg has captured the audience's attention in the first few minuets of the film and engrossing them in the work of art.

The contrasting use of (Christian) crosses in the opening sequence is a further example of symbolism. At the military cemetery just after the viewers see the elderly private Ryan walk along the gravel path they then encounter a vast expanse of plain white crosses in a formation similar to how soldiers would stand in their regiments. This is contrasted with the black cross like structures that are seen on the beach as the soldiers in their fortified boats approach. A similar yet opposite message, which is very potent is given out. Both symbols show death and lost life however the cemetery is peaceful and placid while the front line is gruesome and shocking. The crosses are already at the battle site that hints to the audience that the soldiers have no chance of winning so their watery graves have already been prepared. This gives the viewers have an idea as to what might happen to the soldiers but no too much information, this insight into the forthcoming events creates tension because it allows the audiences thoughts to conjure a possible plot gripping them and giving them an emotional attachment to the film.

The weather is a further example of a signifier; the weather gives the audience a direct insight as to the potential outcome of the scene. When the weather is sunny the American nation is glorified. When the weather is dull or raining the Germans are in shot or there is some sort of conflict. An example of this is shown at the beginning directly after the credits. The viewers see the idealistic image of a united American family; this picture is bathed in sunlight. In contrast when the soldiers are approaching the Omaha beach; the weather is grey and drizzly this signifies the coming events to be dangerous and painful. The weather is used to predict the future, this builds tension because the audience know something is going to happen but not how why or when. These questions in turn intensify the audience's interest and make them search for answer in other cinematic forms

The second cinematic device I am going to discuss is imagery; imagery taps in to the senses of the audience and helps them to imagine the sensations they see on screen. Spielberg uses a lot of imagery in the opening scene to grab the attention of the viewers.

The image of the American flag is a very prominent in the opening sequence. The see several as the elderly private Ryan walks through the cemetery. As I said in a previous paragraph the audience sees a faded American fag, after the battle scene a sea of blood (which is red) can be observed. There are also many dead fish and the sand is a brown colour though where it is still pure and free from blood it is cream colour. When all of these colours are put next to each other the audience see an abstract American flag. This is called visual imagery. As the audience have seen the genuine flag only moments before this image is projected to the forefront of their minds. This makes the viewers feel as if the men who have fought in this battle are only part of a smaller picture but they were a sacrifice that had to be made. The



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