Saving Private Ryan is a milestone in sound design. The ongoing collaboration between director Steven Spielberg and sound designer Gary Rydstrom is truly one of the most important sonic teamworks in film history and this is one of their absolute highlights.
The whole film is directed in a way where sound is an integrated part of the storytelling, the dramaturgy, the drama, the emotions of the film. The assault at Omaha Beach is iconic in itself with its brilliant dynamics between subjective sound sequences – experiencing the madness of war from inside of Tom Hanks’ ears – and the incredibly detailed battle scenes – it feels like the bullets are flying by the ears of the audience and personally I’ll never forget the underwater moments with the sounds of bullets penetrating the ocean.
This whole sequence revolutionized the sound of the modern war film and it still feels as overwhelming and intense as the day the film was released. The whole film’s sound design is truly brilliant, though, and both the calm moments and the war scenes are great examples of how sound can create atmosphere, feeling, dynamic, space, energy, poetry and much more. The soldiers are listening and so is the audience.
At the same time, there’s also a really wonderful interplay between Gary Rydstrom’s multilayered soundscapes and John Williams’ beautiful and often quite minimal music. This makes the whole film visceral and emotional in equal measures – it’s a movie where the loud and the quiet moments both have incredible impact.
It’s amazing that this film is 20 years old now. It hasn’t aged a bit. A timeless sound classic.
Sound designer and recordist Matteo Milani came across these excellent behind-the-scenes videos on the sound for the film.
Part 1: Saving Private Ryan’s music:
Part 2: Saving Private Ryan’s sound design:
And finally, here’s the trailer for the film:
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