Saving Private Ryan – Carnage or compassion: which is most effective Essay
I will be comparing two different scenes using pause button analysis from the film Saving Private Ryan, directed by Steven Spielberg.
The purpose of this essay is to determine whether carnage or compassion is more effective at gaining audience sympathy and understanding for the characters in the film and the situation they are in. By using pause button analysis we can view both carnage and compassion in greater depth and see which one has the strongest effect on the viewers. Saving Private Ryan was set during the invasion of Normandy in World War 2.The film depicts the real life events of the Normandy Landings on the 6th of June, 1944, otherwise known as D-Day.
At the beginning of the film, the focus is on the American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, but after a mass slaughtering and a struggled battle against the German Army, the plot advances into the search for Private James Francis Ryan. The first scene that we are looking at is the beach scene which begins with the American soldiers on the boat heading towards Omaha Beach.Once they land on the beach, we see complete carnage as the slaughtering begins and we see hundreds of anonymous soldiers being gunned down. After a mass killing, the American soldiers must decide how to breach the German defences and this is where our analysis of the beach scene ends. In addition, Spielberg reflects the mood of the soldiers by using pathetic fallacy which conjointly reflects on the emotions of the audience.
The soldiers feel anxious, terrified and exceedingly afraid and the weather reflects these fearful emotions as it is raining heavily, very dark and substantially gloomy.The opening shot for the beach scene is four seconds in duration and is an extreme close up of a soldier’s face which slowly zooms out into a close up of numerous soldiers on the boat. The audience does not yet know who the soldier is which makes them begin to wonder if he has any major importance or if he is just another anonymous soldier. Within the next few short duration shots, we see a soldier counting down as they are nearing the beach which builds up tension and we also see the same solider from shot one giving instructions and discussing tactics with his fellow soldiers.
As we have seen this character twice already: the first time being an extreme close up of his face and in conjunction with the fact that the shot where we see him for a second time is noticeably quite a few seconds longer than the previous shots. This shows the audience that he must have some significance in the film. The first few opening shots centre on the nearing of the boats to the beach and are all short in duration which builds tension.The fact the that soldiers are being sick, the camera jolts a lot and that there are diegetic sounds such as the rambunctious sounds of waves gives the audience the gruelling effect of being on the boat which is the first time they will feel compassion for the soldiers, as they are feeling empathy for them.
Throughout the next set of shots, a lot of tension and suspense builds up and then is released as the massacre begins. The first shot of the middle section of the beach scene shows the expressions and different reactions of some of the many soldiers on the boats as they hear the first gun shots and explosions coming from the beach.We see many soldiers lower their heads as they are petrified and very anxious but we also see some of them making the sign of the cross and praying to God. The mechanics and view of the boat door being opened shows that they are almost on the beach and adds suspense and tension.
All of this suspense and tension built up is released dramatically in the next shot as we see just how many soldiers are shot from a low canted angle and then from a high up angle behind the soldiers. We also see close up shots of the soldiers that survived which implies that they may be in the rest of the film.In the next shot we see many anonymous soldiers on the beach which adds suspense as we don’t know who they are but we later see that Captain Miller, the main character is still alive. Within the last few shots of the beach scene, we see quite a few long duration shots of the soldiers both under and above water. We see the soldiers struggling underwater in slow motion which emphasises the slow and painful deaths that they encounter.
We see many more anonymous soldiers being killed which builds suspense as we begin to wonder where the main characters are and if they are still alive.In addition, we see a close up of German soldiers firing at the American soldiers showing not only the monstrosity and vast amount of soldiers being killed, but also the slaughter from a different viewpoint. The second scene that we are looking at is the bridge scene which involves the death of Captain Miller. This is where our pause button analysis will be used again to observe which is more effective at gaining audience sympathy and understanding: the carnage we see in the beach scene or the compassion we see in this scene.We see a German soldier who was earlier caught by the American soldiers, but then released, seen to be betraying the very soldiers who set him free as he shoots Captain Miller.
This angers one of the American soldiers who finally overcomes his fear and shows his bravery and realisation of the situation. Throughout the first few shots we see Captain Miller survive an explosion but lose his hearing temporarily which we feel empathy for as we can hear a high pitched whistling and distorted background noise.We feel the despair that Captain Miller is feeling as the camera is panning around the scene as if we are looking through Miller’s eyes. We also see the intensity of emotion and compassion as Captain Miller’s sergeant and close friend is lying dead next to him. Towards the end of the first section of shots of the bridge scene, Captain Miller regains his hearing and we also see the German soldier who they earlier let go shooting American soldiers.
He doesn’t have a helmet on which makes him stand out from his fellow soldiers and makes him seem daring.Spielberg may have deliberately shown this soldier without a helmet so the audience recognises him and to make him even more recognisable, the camera zooms in to a close up of his face. In the middle section of shots, we see one of the American soldiers named Upham realise that he had made a mistake in saying that they should let the German soldier go earlier. As Captain Miller struggles towards the detonator to blow up the bridge, the German aims with precision and then shoots him.
This is sadly ironic because Captain Miller let the German soldier go earlier but then the German shoots Miller and shows absolutely no remorse.Even though Captain Miller is badly injured, we see his determination as he picks up a gun and repeatedly shoots a tank which is like his fate rolling towards him. The shots of Miller shooting the tank and the tank rolling towards him get shorter in duration to show that they are getting closer together. The final shots of the bridge scene consists mostly of Upham’s private victory and realisation of the situation because as Upham is pointing his gun at a group of Germans, the soldier who was let go but who then killed Captain Miller says “Upham” in a friendly manner and with a grin upon his face to persuade Upham not shoot him.
Throughout the next two shots Upham shows his bravery and overcomes his fear and cowardice by shooting the German soldier who he let go and whilst he does this, the camera is always focused on a close up shot of him with the diegetic sound of the gun shot and also the music which brings extra emotion to Upham’s private victory. Pathetic fallacy is used as Upham is looking down at the dead body of the German soldier with the music playing in the background whilst the sun is shining behind him.The sun reflects the emotions of Upham; not the feeling of happiness, but understanding of the situation. The very last shot of the bridge scene is thirty eight seconds in duration and is the longest shot of both scenes.
It is a very long shot so to emphasise the long and harsh amount of pain that Captain Miller is going through as he dies and also the pain that his fellow soldiers, including Private Ryan, are going through.Before Captain Miller dies, he has a scarce conversation with Private Ryan which involves him saying that the tank busters are, “Angels on our shoulders” which is then followed by him saying to Private Ryan, “Earn this, earn it”. The diegetic music adds to the compassion of the shot because it is sad yet also quite heroic music which helps the audience to realise that although Miller died, he died a hero as he achieved the goal he set out to do which was to find Private Ryan.Both the beach scene and the bridge scene are similar in many ways such as the fact that they both feature fighting and death but in two very different ways.
In the beach scene, we see fighting and death in the form of complete carnage but in the bridge scene, we see fighting and clearly death in the form of compassion. There are many more differences, such as that the shots in the beach scene consist of many long distance and shorter duration shots rather than close up and longer duration shots. This is because we have not yet become familiar with the characters.Whereas in the bridge scene, there are no long shots, are mostly close ups and are longer in duration as we have gotten to know the characters in greater depth.
They now mean more to us than before when they were a group of anonymous soldiers. There are multiple killings, many anonymous characters and utter chaos in the beach scene whereas in the bridge scene, there is a single killing, lots of intimacy and a focus upon a single known character. However, the ways in which they are similar are that they both include fighting, death, diegetic sound, pathetic fallacy and an emotional effect on the audience.Pathetic fallacy is used noticeably a few times in the film; at the beginning at the white grave stone crosses, in the beach scene and in the bridge scene with Upham.
Diegetic sound is also used quite substantially in the film to give the audience the sense being in the same situation as the characters in the film and the non-diegetic music added intensifies the emotion and meaning. The effect that both scenes have on the audiences’ emotions and enjoyment of the film is obviously extremely sad in two amply different ways.In the beach scene, the audience may feel enjoyment as there is a lot of tension and suspense built up and then released; they may feel emotional because of the mass amount of killing that they see and as so many lives are being lost. However, they may not feel as emotional because they don’t know any of the characters personally and to them, the characters may just be a group of random and anonymous people. In the bridge scene, the audience may feel enjoyment as the planes come in and save the day.
They may feel emotional as the characters may be more personal to them now because they have been watching them the whole film and know them in greater depth. For example, because the characters have more significance to us now than earlier in the film, we may be more emotionally affected if they were to be harmed. After comparing the two different scenes using pause button analysis, I can now conclude by determining whether carnage or compassion is the most effective at gaining audience sympathy and understanding for the characters in the film and the situation they are in.I believe that the two scenes I have been analysing are important to the rest of the film because the beach scene is initially the beginning of the film, it gives us an understanding of what’s happening, why the soldiers are there and also who the main characters might be and the bridge scene is initially the climax of the film: it shows us what happens in the end and also the fate of our characters.I think that the beach scene is certainly effective in gaining audience sympathy and understanding because we see total carnage from long distance shots which make the audience see and understand the vast amount of people who were massacred in the war.
However, I believe that the audience may not feel as much emotion towards individual characters because they don’t know who any of the soldiers are as they are anonymous characters to whom they have no feelings towards.I believe that the bridge scene is deeply effective in gaining audience sympathy and understanding because we see compassion as the main character in the film dies just as we have grown to know him in more depth and now means more to us than before when he was just another anonymous soldier.In conclusion, I believe that the bridge scene is more effective in gaining audience sympathy and understanding because although seeing the carnage in the beach scene is very emotional as we see the large extent of slaughtering, we cannot really relate to any of the characters that are killed because we don’t know any of them: to the audience they are a group of anonymous soldiers.However, seeing the compassion of the death of Captain Miller in the bridge scene is even more effective at gaining our sympathy and understanding because we can relate to the situation as the characters are more significant to us and we feel more emotion if they are harmed.
We can also relate to the private victory of Upham in the bridge scene because it gives us understanding and hope that we can overcome our fears as Upham did and win our own private victory.