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INTRODUCTION Film construction incorporates the systematic assembly of cinematic elements that seek to convey meaning and invoke emotion. In order to ensure that the intended message is received and understood by the recipient there must be a symbolic understanding between the filmmaker and the intended audience. This commonality is implicit in nature but explicit in expression, therefore the nature of the visual stimuli (that induces a sense of understanding on the part of the recipient) is only iconic and semantically significant if the intended message is constructed within a set of a generally understood language system or culture. According to Fuery (2000), cinema is "produced by, read in, and gains meaning from, its cultural positioning", hence in order to attach meaning to any given film it is essential to acknowledge, understand and internalize the paradigmatic nature of the cultural from which it was produced. "Saving Private Ryan" (Spielberg, 1998) and "Catch 22" (Nichols, 1970) are two films that represent isolated events that occur during World War 2 (WW2), both films are produce by the same culture, yet despite this the ideological standpoint of the films are drastically contrasting and contradictory. The notion of cultural and it's inseparable link to ideology can then only be understood within the context in which the film was constructed, the thirty eight year gap between the two films is culturally significant in the sense that it effects the audiences understanding and the meaning obtained. This essay will explore the ideological significance within the spacetime constructs of post-WW2 American cinema through a detailed comparing Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" and Mike Nichols's "Catch 22" in an attempt to highlight how films gain meaning from their cultural positioning. 2. IDEOLOGY Ideology is term that loosely encompasses the collective understanding of the behaviors, thoughts, motivations, beliefs, interpersonal discourses, socio-historical transgressions of a societal group, individual or culture. The term was originally used in the Marxist
tradition that was used to "...place people in different classes in society on account of their social and, in particular, economic differences" (Fourie, 2004:135), however since the dispelling of the Soviet Union during the cold war the term has been somewhat redefined to reflect a more unbiased classification of society and the individual. The purpose of ideology, as indicated by Lye (1997) is to encapsulate the socialization process that results in a collective understanding embedded in symbols and cultural practices, this is achieved through the shaping of our cognitive process by ideological "apparatuses" (churches, schools, family, art, etc.). Ideology, however, is not an absolute term in the scientific sense as Lye (1997) states that "Any ideology will contain contradictions, will repress aspects of its experience, will 'disappear that which tends to contradict it or expose its repressions", hence when the ideology of any given text is analyzed the resultant meanings are not absolute and are subjected to change, or in other words, ideology as a cultural phenomena is constantly in a state of flux. Giannetti (2005), defines ideology as "...a body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture", this definition as a operational term is simplistic and vague, however it does incorporate the broadness that is the term itself. For the purpose of this discussion, ideology "refers to ideas, attitudes, values, belief systems, or interpretive and conceptual frameworks held by members of a particular social group or cultural" (Fourie, 2004: 225). 2.1 Ideology and its cinematic application Film as a communication medium is bound by the pardigmatic-syntagmatic correlation and its resultant culturally bound implications and meanings. As a result it is necessary to note that the explicitness through which cinematic meaning is convey should be seen as a variable process, rather than a constant and all-encompassing ideological expression of the filmmaker. Giannetti (2005:428-429), describes the three broad categories through which the ideological nature of film can be ascertained, be it neutral, implicit or explicit.
Fourie (2004:224), in his discussion of contemporary film theory, emphasizes the effect of mainstream and oppositional cinema as a means of portraying ideological standpoints. "Mainstream cinema" is film that contributes towards maintaing the ideological understandings amongst the majority of individuals within a societal group, whilst "Oppositional cinema" seeks to challenge mainstream beliefs through generally explicit ideological content (Fourie, 2004). The relationship between mainstream and oppositional cinema, and the degree to which they vary, is a indication of the diversity of individual ontological understandings within a societal group and provides a conceptual framework for gaining insight into inter-cultural ideological variations. For example, the degree to which mainstream and oppositional cinema differ in collectivistic societies (e.g. Korea, China, and other south-east Asian countries) would hypothetically be smaller than that of individualistic societies such as the USA. 3. SYNOPSIS 3.1. Saving Private Ryan The film follows a small group of US soldiers as they arrive on the bloody beaches of Omaha during the US World War II campaign on 6 June 1944 (or "D-Day").The film is essentially a objective flashback of the Normandy campaign initiated by the aging Private Ryan as he remembers the acts of heroism that lend to his present day existence. The film's protagonist takes the form of Captain John Miller who successfully survives the beach massacre only to be given orders to search for and send home Private Ryan. Miller's initial apprehension is equally felt by his squadron who feel that searching for one soldier is a waste of military resources, however these initial feelings are progressively transcended as the company themselves realize the importance of the individual as they grow closer as a unit. Along the way Captain Miller losses many of his team which ultimately adds to his enduring efforts to save one man's life. Eventually when Private Ryan is located, he refuses to abounded his fellow soldiers which results in Captain miller and his men joining and protecting Private Ryan through his military endeavors. The film is vivid in its depiction of the horrors of war during this time and
attempts to recreate the actual experience of the patriotic US soldiers that fought in the Normandy campaign. Heroism, bravery and patriotism are strong central themes and are persistent throughout the film. 3.2. Catch 22 Catch 22 is a satirist look at the experiences of the 256th bomber squadron and it's commanding officers. This 1970's film is based on the book by Joseph Heller and tells the story of Captain Yossarain who is desperately seeker to return home but is constantly being told to complete more missions before he is allowed to do so, this is due to his glory seeker Colonel who dreams of making the papers with stories of how his command has flown more missions than any other. The title is evidence of the immorality of war as Captain Yossarian tries to pled insane in order to avoid flying more missions but due to military policies he is unable to do so, the argument here is that if a soldier is able enough to identify himself as insane then he is a rational being and therefore cannot be insane. The story follows Captain Yossarian as he becomes more and more entrapped and exploited by his superiors and subsequently becomes more and more desperate to escape. The movie makes use of black humor in order to justify the madness that takes place during the war, Engstrom describes the use of black humor in Catch 22 as follows: "More commonly described as the'humour that deals with unpleasant aspects of life in a bitter or ironic way', black humor became the American people's way to express their feelings of disillusionment and hopelessness. Indeed, this is the eternal theme that emerged in Joseph Heller's Catch 22...Through black humor, the senselessness of war, particularly the act of enlisting young men in combat, individuals who have no idea about, nor belief, in the war they were supposed to be fighting." This idea of being caught in the catch 22 scenarios during the World War is the starting point of Heller's satirist takes on the irrationality and immorality of war. Along with immorality and irrationality, catch 22 is an oppositional approach to an otherwise
glorified American World War II campaign. 4. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN AND CATCH 22: AN IDEOLOGICAL COMPARISION America cinema as a whole has generally been criticized as representing a single-minded ideological standpoint. Although this may be true when the majority of exploited films are examined, however many American filmmakers have been addressing an oppositional attitude that reflect an alternative post-WWII American consciousness. Catch 22 and Saving Private Ryan represent two different perspectives on the same war by the same society, therefore in order to account for this discrepancy the socio-historical context in which the films were created needs to be understood and examined. 4.1 The American postwar parody: a context for analysis American culture has long been one of national isolation and more recently infectious global involvement policies. This isolationist impulse was results of the popular disappoint the American people felt after World War I, making them hesitant in involving themselves in another bloody war campaign (Grogin, 2002). It was through the campaigning of the Warner Bro's film company that anti-nazi ideologies came into to play. Through a series of propaganda films such as The Fighting 69th (1940) and The Dan Patrol (1938), that started a movement that lead to the American society questioning their role in the war, it wasn't until the first openly anti-Nazi films of The Black Legion (1937) and Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939) that Warner Bro's political stance became overtly known (Grogin, 2002). Despite numerous threats, and even the burning of a cinema house, the Warner Bro's campaigned continued and its efforts were eventually met when America joined the war in 1941. Since the release in 1998 of Saving Private Ryan the American public have once again been ask to revive the debate over war and the remembering of the soldiers who fought in it. With modern technology contributing towards a more realistic visual recollection of
war, viewers are now exposed to closer approximations of the "reality" D-day soldiers had to face. Similarly, modern technology has allowed the American people to become voyeurs of modern warfare, in which their own country has spearheaded the attack (e.g. The recent war in Iraq and Afghanistan). Therefore, the notion and modern implementation of technology has allowed American society to be brought closer to the emotions and happenings of past wars, whilst and that same time technology is allowing them to distance themselves for the present day conflicts. Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan "challenges America's idealistic vision of high technological warfare and brands a benevolent battlefield as a myth" (Greenwood, 1998), this supports the paradigmatic thinking that has resulted from the use of technology. The visuals in Saving Private Ryan awaken the reality and irrational nature of war through assimilating the past horrors of war into our modern schema, yet this apparent closeness felt by viewing the pearls of brave soldiers (such as Captain Miller) fails to impact on America's hesitancy to initiate and avoid the wars of today. It is for this reason that Saving Private Ryan is largely a war film as opposed to the anti-war sediments reflected in Catch 22. Twenty-eight years before Saving Private Ryan was released, the satire anti-war Catch 22 (based on the book of the same title by Mike Nichols) hit the America cinema scene. During the 1940's many American soldiers were forced into the service without fully comprehending the task at hand, it is this senselessness of war that Catch 22 encapsulates and rejects. Catch 22 was written during the liberalization moment in America (1960's) that had a strong anti-war consensus, this may be the reason it received funding despite it's haphazard plot and narrative as the sponsor's focus was on the ideological slant rather than its aesthetic potential (Engstrom, 2006). In conjunction with the peaceful protest of the "hippie" cult, Catch 22 adopts black humor as a means of expressing its anti-war inclinations. The growing concern of economic greed by elite societal members was another growing concern during this time as America had fully recovered from its great depression and was now reaping the rewards of capitalism (Engstrom, 2006), again this a central theme in Catch 22 as the superiors in the film (namely Colonel Cathcart) are willing to sacrifice their own dignity for extravagant economic rewards, while the individual's under his command suffer under his tolaterian position
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