Mean Old Private Ryan

People did talk about Saving Private Ryan. They talk about it and they will continue to talk about. Occasionally it seems that it is the only war movie that has ever been made. At least the only one the general public is aware of  – until, of course The Hurt Locker got the Oscar – but that is another story and if I believe it deserved it…). It is a fact that even the most war movie illiterate seems to know Saving Private Ryan or has at least heard  of it. One could almost go as far as to talk about a before and after era. Occasionally this can become slightly annoying especially considering that this movie overshadows some very well done other movies that would be talked about, appreciated and mentioned if it wasn’t for mean old Private Ryan.  On top of that it  led to my worst Popcorn moment ever, something that up to that point in time  I wouldn’t even have thought possible and , by the way, was never repeated since. I was on holiday in  some southern English town. Salisbury or Bournemouth. At the beginning of the movie I was actually  sitting in one of the rows in the middle munching Popcorn.  Shamefully I must admit that I was not aware of the nature of the movie that would be shown (How could that happen? Living in Switzerland which I did at the time and am doing again now doesn’t really put you in the position to talk about the latest releases of the film industry. US movies are usually already classics by the time Swiss  movie theaters start to show the previews). Fifteen minutes into the beginning of the movie it dawned on me: Popcorn was the least appropriate thing when watching a movie like this. And everybody knows what I’m talking about when referring to the first 15 minutes of Private Ryan. This is probably one of the most hellish moments in the history of war movies (put aside the episode Bastogne in Band of Brothers) and what’s even worse: There is no escaping it. You don’t watch it , you’re literally in it. These 23 minutes are very probably part of its success story. They lead to  an extremely close  and  maybe for some spectators  totally unwanted identification with those poor unfortunate soldiers landing on  Omaha Beach. A nightmare and absolutely not encouraging popcorn eating. I almost threw up.

After having said all this, adorned with some little anecdote of the life of a moviegoer, I’d like to put this straight: I do appreciate Saving Private Ryan. It is one of the best WWII infantry combat movies, no doubt about that, but it is just unfair it gets all the credit when The Thin Red Line is so much more emotional and poetic, and When trumpets fade so much more moving. Ahh… I hear some of you wonder …When trumpets fade… ?What the heck is she talking about?…See? Overshadowed by Saving Private Ryan. 1998. What a year for war movies.

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