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Gabler on 'Private Ryan'

August 15, 1998

Neal Gabler, in " 'Private Ryan' Satisfies Our Longing for Unity" (Opinion, Aug. 9), couldn't see the trees for the forest.

People don't go to see the film because people have told them that it makes you feel good about our country or unified or because it reconciles past political differences. It is a great film because it is not judgmental about the history or politics of the war but shows it in all its inhumanity, horror, pain and death, and it shows soldiers, Americans and Germans alike, as real people each trying in his own way to cope with sense of duty, loyalty, fears and mortality.

DAVID SHAPIRO

Marina del Rey

*

While I agreed with much of Gabler's piece, he made a factual error when he suggested that the German soldier who is shot by the Jeremy Davies character is the same German who is the "one witness to his cowardice." The German soldier Davies shoots is a character seen previously in the film and Davies' motive for killing him is anything but cowardice. The German who witnesses Davies' cowardice is a different character and as such is thoughtfully wardrobed in a different uniform.

BILL GEERHART

Los Angeles

*

Gabler says that the villain of the piece is the "weasel who freezes in the teeth of combat." Actually, the Tom Hanks character froze a couple of times, too. More bizarre, Gabler says he froze because he "let intellectual principles supersede gut emotion." It's the exact opposite.

Gabler's biggest error is in confusing the filmmaking process with some sociological agenda--reconciling the diverse points of view in our society. "Saving Private Ryan" tells a poetic, ironic story, in which war itself is the villain. It doesn't "feel" like any movie ever made, but is probably closer to "All Quiet on the Western Front" than any of the films Gabler named.

JAMES TUGEND

Los Angeles

*

Spielberg's film is nothing more than left-wing propaganda, and in showing the horror of war (as if we didn't know) to point out the meaninglessness of the terrible sacrifices made by the masses. Contrary to Gabler's juvenile claim that this is the end of ideology, it is in fact leftover communist drivel.

The very event on which Spielberg chose to build his "World War II masterpiece" is all you need to know. Several soldiers are forced to jeopardize their lives in a foolish attempt to save one other soldier, primarily for public relations purposes. That's what World War II was all about. Even Gabler concedes that the film may have falsified the sentiments of soldiers of that time, who did indeed believe they were fighting to stop Hitler and preserve the "American way of life." But Gabler says this falsification was in "a good cause: to neutralize the nationalism that had divided us and to humanize our sense of duty." That's the code of the Age of Clinton: "I am lying, cheating and stealing, but I'm doing it for your good."

LEONARD LAMENSDORF

Santa Barbara

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