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Reading: 'A cataclysm of carnage, nausea, and death'. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and visceral engagement


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'A cataclysm of carnage, nausea, and death'. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and visceral engagement


Julie Turnock

University of Chicago, US
About Julie

Julie Turnock studeerde in 2001 af aan de faculteit Geesteswetenschappen, instituut Film en Televisie van de Universiteit van Amsterdam; zij behaalde eerder aan de Indiana University in Bloomington haar MA kunstgeschiedenis. Voor de herfst van 2002 heeft zij haar Ph.D. promotie gepland aan de University of Chicago, binnen de commissie voor film- en mediastudies, gericht op de vroege cinema en eigentijdse speciale effecten films.

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In interviews promoting the release of his 1998 film SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, Steven Spielberg said he had in the 30-minute opening 'Omaha Beach'-sequence intended to render war and warfare as realistically as possible: war evoked as it really was and really is. This essay suggests that in attempting to create greater 'realism' Spielberg and his team broke in a striking wag with traditional 'classic' forms of realism in order to solicit an effect of extreme bodily and emotional engagement.

Further, this paper examines whether physical response effect of movies on viewers in the so-called 'body genres' as described in recent articles can be applied to the Omaha Beach-sequence as well. Moreover, the attention this sequence received seems to reveal a distinct change in expectations of a war film, both from an American and a European point of view. Finally, the present article claims to clarify how the visceral body effects in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN are to be understood, and how this new method as applied in a war film relates to the contemporary discourse on filmmaking.

How to Cite: Turnock, Julie. 2002. “'A Cataclysm of Carnage, Nausea, and Death'. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and Visceral Engagement”. TMG Journal for Media History 5 (1): 50–66. DOI:
Published on 01 May 2002.


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