An analysis of narrative and genre in a sequence from ‘Saving Private Ryan’ ( 1998).
The narrative of a film is the structure and order. Narrative is one of the main parts of a film. If a film has no narrative, the story will not be chronologically correct, therefore not making sense. The genre of a film is a category each type of film is given, based on its content. The genre can be identified by looking at things such as characters, themes, scenery, narrative and language that are contained in the film. The film clip that I will be analysing is from Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan.
Saving Private Ryan is a modern war film. The scene that I have chosen to analyse is the scene after the beach scene, after the soldiers leave to go and find Private Ryan. All of the main characters are in the scene, which shows it is quite a poignant scene. The music in the scene is quite significant, it also hints at what may happen. The music is calm and orchestrated, which could mean that nothing very bad will happen in this scene. It also could be directly related to the brotherhood between the soldiers in the scene, which is also directly bought up in conversation, when one of the soldiers talks about “writing a book about the brotherhoods of soldiers forged in war.” The genre of the film can also be instantly established from this scene, mainly because of the costumes and props. Such as all of the soldiers uniforms and the fact that they are all carrying guns which quickly lets you establish that it is indeed a war film that you are watching.
The war film conventions are also quite apparent in this scene. The fact that they have a new soldier that has just joined their squad and is disliked by the other members is quite a common story among the war genre. This is also shown when they make up things to tell him, and when the soldier asks them where he is from, the soldiers just simply ignore him or tell him to go and “ask the captain where he is from”. Also, the fact that all of the soldiers are friends with each other (other than the aforementioned new soldier) is also a common theme throughout war films. The fact that the soldiers laughed at the new soldier when he said he was going to write a book about brotherhood is quite ironic, when most of the soldiers in the “squad” already have established a brotherhood. Also, talk of soldiers having a ‘Brotherhood’ is quite a common theme throughout the war film genre.
The scene also covers a lot of issues such as bullying, loneliness and respect for leaders. The soldiers are effectively bullying the new soldier when he is just trying to fit in by purposely being aggressive towards him and not even trying to talk to him. The soldier shows that he is feeling loneliness as Spielberg uses a close up on the soldier, while he has a sombre expression on his face. Also, as soon as Tom Hank’s character Captain Miller tells them to stop and talks to the soldier, the others also stop. This is also a common feature in war films. A good example is in the film “Behind Enemy Lines”. A soldier is stranded on his own behind enemy lines, and he has a lot of close up shots of him expressing sadness.
The scene I chose is roughly a third of the way through the film. It is a relatively central from the narrative point of view, as it shows many things that will be recurring throughout the film. Such as the brotherhood bond that the soldiers already have, the fact that the soldiers are in fact friends with each other. This plays a very important role in the film’s narrative. Also the fact that a new soldier who says that he has never fought before is told to join the squad, also is an important part of the narrative. It also lets the audience know different sides of the characters’ personalities, which may not come across very clearly in other scenes.
The narrative in this scene does not particularly move the plot forwards. The scene is not vital to the film, and the film could still make perfect sense without this scene in it at all. However, it is still an important scene to let the spectator get to know the characters a little better, and it also re-enforces what the narrative and plot of the film is about.
The narrative of the film is all played out in chronological order, even though the whole film is a long flashback as to what happened in World War 2. There is however, soldiers reciting things that have happened in their life, but without the use of a flashback. This technique may have been used to make the spectator feel like they were actually there with the soldiers, and therefore they would not experience the flashback themselves.
The sequence of film that I have chosen could either enforce the spectators understanding of the film, or challenge it. If the spectator thought that all of the soldiers were all bound by a bond, as in some war films, this point would be challenged. This could make the spectator feel that “Saving Private Ryan” is not a typical war film, and that it can turn some of the conventions of traditional war films up-side down. On the other hand, the spectator could see that some of the soldiers already had a brotherly bond between them, so it could be using the same conventions as the traditional war film.
In conclusion, the Narrative and Genre of this film clip are very helpful in allowing the audience to read more into the film, understand the narrative more and understand the emotions and personalities of the characters better. This clip makes it easier for the audience to see that “Saving Private Ryan” is not just another war film, it also has a large emotional story entwined into the narrative.