Explain how Steven Spielberg uses appropriate music in Saving Private Ryan to create not only an entertaining product of visual extremes, but also an explanation of human conscience.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is interesting to note the use of music in the Spielberg film.  Overall, there is little use of music in the progression of the film.  In deliberately not using music in such a prevalent manner, Spielberg constructs a realistic and gritty portrait of war.  In this, the effect on the viewer is to recognize the brutality of armed conflict.  There is little drama in war for drama seems to be too light of a term given the conflict that is presented in the film.  The struggle for life and death is a reality that the film delivers, ensuring that the conscience of the viewer is jarred with understanding the reality that the soldiers face.

Such an effect is evident in the opening sequence.  The approach onto Omaha Beach in the film is shown without film soundtrack.  The bullets whizzing by, ricocheting off of armor, or even piercing the bodies of the soldier is the only real soundtrack that is heard.  The viewer understands from this initial assault on their senses that war is a brutalizing exercise, one in which a solemn praise for soldiers is the only adequate response.  The lack of a soundtrack adds to the realistic and gritty depiction in the film.  The effect on the viewer is an elevation of conscience in terms of appreciating the sacrifices made by the soldiers.  This becomes the primary intent of the use, or lack of use, of musical score in battle scenes.  When the music is used, it is more of an accompaniment to the transition between fighting.  This is seen in "High School Teacher," where Williams' score is used to accentuate the characterization of Miller.  Yet, the overall effect of the minimal presence of soundtrack in battle scenes is to create a condition in which there is a full appreciation for the reality of war.