SPIELBERG THEME - EYES AND SEEING: Saving Private Ryan is littered with visual references to eyes, sight and seeing. The most obvious references come at the beginning and end of the film, when Spielberg cuts from present to past and then back again with shots of characters looking (ruefully into the distance and at a dead body).
At the end of the Omaha sequence, we are again shown eyes and reminded of sight. Spielberg moves in slowly on Captain Miller’s eyes as he surveys the carnage. “Quite a view,” one character says to him. “Quite a view,” he agrees solemnly.
Spielberg also references sight with his use of weaponry. We see through the sights of a rifle, look down the canon of a tank and focus on a sniper’s eyes as he sizes up his shot.
Why does Spielberg do this? He is commenting on the act of watching a film. Here watching a film takes on added meaning though.
Beginning and ending at the Allied graveyard in Normandy, Saving Private Ryan is about the act of memorial. By referencing sight and seeing and making those references so brutal, Spielberg is critiquing representations of war. He is saying that it is not good enough to watch a war film - we must be more proactive in the way we remember the dead.
Saving Private Ryan is a film about war. It’s also a film about war films.