My relationship with Saving Private Ryan is now twenty-two years old and while I still love it, it’s only human to want to spice things up a bit, right?
Spielberg’s seminal war masterpiece is my favourite film of all time. Its power when I saw it in the cinema (the first time – I went more than a few) was shuddering, crushing and exciting. I was in awe. Surround sound was new to cinemas back then and the whole cinema turned around when a Panzer rolled up ‘behind’ us. My friend was pressed into his seat with a clenched jaw during the famous, brutal opening action scene.
Like a drug addict, I wanted that first hit again. Fortunately, in 2019, we have the technology. I own a 3D TV which converts – rather well I might add – 2D to 3D. I also have a nice pair of headphones capable of adding to the sound. I decided to fully commit and watch uninterrupted, using both of these aids on my not inconsiderable TV.
It occurred to me as I was about to put Saving Private Ryan on in 3D that it might be distasteful. Is it distasteful? Well, Titanic was remade in 3D, so at what point is real-life death unappetising in more than one dimension? Clue: never. Peter Jackson was recently much-lauded for They Shall Not Grow Old, a documentary on the horrors of WW1 which was, you guessed it – in 3D!
I decided that it wasn’t distasteful, based on the above evidence and the fact that even if it was, I was going to do it anyway. Also, full disclosure, I decided the latter first then created the former not to sound like a dickhead.
Steven Spielberg uses a kind of tryptic staging to his shots. He likes three layers to the depth of his framing, which as one, created a more realistic image. Think of it like a smarter version of the camera blocking Eastenders uses to try and make the show look more realistic. Only, y’know, classy. Spielberg’s technique lends itself perfectly to 3D, which really adds to my enjoyment of the film.
The headphones, those big ones rather than tiny inner ear things, have much the same effect, only not quite as imposing. Certainly miles better than the TV speakers though. They have the added bonus of a 3-metre cable, so I’m practically hugging the TV. Not for everyone, sure, and I’m still recalibrating my square eyes, but totally worth it.
As Saving Private Ryan rumbles on, I realise I’m completely caught up in it again. I’ve seen the film dozens of times, but its horrifying embrace welcomes me back. A powerful film still, I remember why I love it as bullets unceremoniously drop soldiers and bombs shatter on the screen. Despite knowing the characters’ fates, I remain moved. I’m sad when the credits roll because I know that like a serial killer, I’ll have to cool off and wait a while to watch it again.
Experiencing Saving Private Ryan in 3D may not have been the reason I enjoyed this rewatch so much, but it certainly didn’t detract from the experience. Our love remains strong, we renew our vows.