I watched Saving Private Ryan again last night. The movie came out in 1998, but I didn't see it until 2003, which I know because I wrote about it in Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day has been offline since 2009, I think. But I still have the Tinderbox file I wrote it in.
Anyway, I made it nearly through the movie and kept wondering why I thought I could never watch it again. Then I got to the end and got punched in the gut again.
Damn you, Spielberg!
Back in May I mentioned that I might watch it again, along with Joe vs. The Volcano, Cast Away, and A Man Called Otto. Haven't watched the other three again, but I guess D-Day was on my mind because a little metal model of that C-47, the Tico Belle, sits on my desk now.
In each of those three movies, Hanks' character fails in an attempt to end his life; yet each finds a new reason to go on living. A meaning. In each movie, the character is leading an inauthentic life, one which doesn't proceed from the character's own center, instead being buffeted along by the uncaring vicissitudes of life and the illusions or misguided beliefs that frame them in his internal experience. (Been there, done that.)
In Ryan, Hanks' character, Captain Miller, wants to live. Wants to return home to his wife, and her love. There's a line he says to Reiben, after talking about getting Ryan and getting closer to going home. "I just know that every man I kill, the farther away from home I feel."
In that same speech, Miller wonders if he's changed so much that his wife will even recognize him.
"Changed so much." Personal transformation. Denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance. Saving Ryan is part of a bargain. Ryan doesn't want to be saved. Ryan wants to stay with his unit, the only brothers he has left. This transformation has been ongoing throughout his experience in combat. His hand shakes. His men ask him, repeatedly, "You all right, captain?"
He's not all right. It's an impossible situation. Why not just bonk Ryan on the head, tie him up and carry him out? Because he knows what the rest of that unit will face. Because he knows there's no guarantee of even getting Ryan out if they tried something like that. There's no guarantee of any of them getting out, even if they left Ryan's unit at the bridge.
Or who they would ultimately be, even if they did?
Sergeant Horvath suggests "We might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole godawful, shitty mess. Like you said, Captain, maybe we do that, we all earn the right to go home."
So is Horvath Krishna to Miller's Arjuna? That hadn't occurred to me in 2003, it does today.
Okay, just got back from my walk and I'm up against the clock. Mitzi's coming home and I have to go to the airport, so let's wrap this up. These aren't carefully drafted, considered, edited and posted. Nope, this is pretty much stream of consciousness.
Ya gets what ya pays for.
Anyway, I wondered if Miller was being unfair when he spoke to Ryan in his dying words, "Earn it." I'm still not sure, but I don't think so. Clearly, it was a burden Ryan had to bear his entire life.
"Earn it." Make it mean something.
I loved how Ryan asked his wife. "Am I good man? Have I lived a good life?" An aching question, surrounded by the dead who cannot answer. And I'm reminded of Neo and Trinity and her faith in him, because love is faith in action.
"Now get up."
Of course, it's just a movie. It wasn't even a "true story," but kind of based on some actual events.
But those rows of crosses and Stars of David are really there. And they should speak to us today, in their silent voices, "Make it mean something."
And we should ask ourselves, "Are we good people? Are we living a good life?"
And as we consider the answer, we should think about Nazi swastikas appearing outside Disneyland.
Who will answer for us? Who will have faith in us? Who will love us and tell us to "Get up."?
I don't know.
Originally posted at Nice Marmot 05:44 Tuesday, 13 June 2023