“Jaws”, is a 1970’s classic, directed by one of today’s most accomplished directors, Steven Spielberg. This legendary film is amongst the most enduring action suspense films of all time, staring Roy Schneider as Chief Brody. The main protagonist struggles to undertake the task of ending the torment of a Great White Shark feeding on the locals. “Jaws” was filmed in 1975 on the coast of the very elegant Amity Island.
Steven Spielberg set “Jaws” during the two or three advancing days prior to 4th July, America’s Independence Day as that is the time a location like Amity Island would be at its busiest, due to its strongest industry being tourism. This meant various families would be arriving down for a holiday in Amity as it is a beach resort with many recreational facilities. There is however a substantial problem, these innocent families have not got a clue that a vicious Great White Shark is in the ocean constantly waiting for its next defenceless victim to feast vigorously upon.
During the forthcoming days, hundreds of innocent tourists will be visiting the beach, with a vast percentage of them intruding the shark’s current territory at some time or another. Consequently, there is a sense of dramatic irony because the audience are aware that there is a menacing Great White Shark pursuing the seas and are conscious of the strengths the disastrous creature possesses.
Unfortunately the hundreds of visitors attending the beach in the film are unaware that in the sea a mighty, corrupt and baneful shark is present. Jaws” first hit the screens in 1975 and was an instant blockbuster, a phenomenon and today it is still among the highest grossing films in motion picture history, acclaimed by both audiences and critics alike. When “Jaws” was realised the spectators may have been hugely intimidated by some of the eerie and frightening scenes. Several individuals may have even attained a phobia for swimming in the sea, since no shark film had ever been screened, which came to Jaws in terms of reality.
Jaws may well have been awarded a higher age certificate in 1975, than what it is at present, as the encounters the victims in the film experienced in the company of the shark would have a repulsive spectacle for the viewers. The realistic encounters which Steven Spielberg exhibits in Jaws, would have been rare for a film in the 1970’s. Jaws was based on the novel published by Peter Benchley. The director was forced to change a lot of the story since the book had far too much information in it for movie.
Steven Spielberg also wished to include some of his own individual writing in a film. Steven Spielberg exploits various techniques to create suspense and scare to the audience in this alarming motion picture. Music is a technique the director capitalises on to construct audience suspense. Jaws is connected to the music in the title sequence by the score beginning quiet and slow, then gradually building up with tension which would present the audience with irritation subsequently they would be thinking, ” What is the shark going to do next? .
There is a build up in the music and gradually amplifies louder and faster, this would uncomfort the audience as it gives them an indication the shark is approaching its prey. The sound of a mouth organ being played at the beach party symbolises and also suggests to the audience something repulsive is going to happen as it clashes with the blissful sensation of teenagers together around the complacent fire. Later in the opening scene a girl runs out to sea with a drunken boy who flounders behind as she plunges into the ocean.
Whilst this girl is swimming, the music unexpectedly stops, the audience gain an emotion of unease and anxiousness since the spectators are on the edge of their seats in anticipation, but not having the slightest clue of what is going to happen next. This also creates an impression that she is very isolated because she is unaccompanied far out in the sea, and the stoned boy she was with, is laying half dead on the sand. The camera focuses on the point of view of the shark and is under the sea, looking at the unprotected girl kicking her legs.
The scary music starts abruptly, the audience instantaneously realise it is the shark’s point of view staring at the girl as it approached her rapidly. Music and silence are used to petrify the audience or create tension by the uncomfortable sudden silence after the shark attack, as the girl was screaming, crying and yelling obscure words only seconds ago; this expresses to the audience the girl is dead. The abrupt end of the girl was tremendously eerie and frightening. Towards the closing scene of the first shark assault, the viewers only distinguish the sound of the waves crashing down on the surface.
This is very eerie as it indicates the end of the attack, and the mysterious aquamarine ocean is once again placid and at ease after the untamed and savage attack by a shark. The director utilises a range of camera techniques to succeed in his task of building up tension in the scene of the second attack, by his use of colour and particular camera shots on the characters. As the second attack scene commences, the director exploits a tracking shot of the young boy, Alex.
Alex approaches his mother from the sea to ask permission for a little more time in the sea. The audience notice the use of colour that Steven Spielberg uses. Alex approaches his mother wearing red swimming shorts, while his mother is wearing a yellow Mexican styled hat. When the audience see the affection and warmth the mother gives to Alex, they feel sympathy for the mother at the end when Alex is killed because the audience knew how much the mother loved him. These two colours symbolise two very different meanings.
The red signifies blood, and the yellow signifies happiness. When Alex is permitted by his mother to go back to sea for a further ten minutes, he goes to fetch a lilo. The camera meanwhile turns its attention to Chief Brody. It gives a close up of him keeping a close eye on the sea for anything irregular, which informs the audience he’s apprehensive about the current situation. Meanwhile the atmosphere of people around Brody is happy and lively. The camera then jump cuts to a tracking shot of a teenager tossing a broad twig out to sea to his black dog.
The camera returns to Brody’s face, which is still looking stressed, gazing in the region of the sea. When Alex re-emerges in the background he has a yellow lilo in his hands; the camera shot immediately focuses on the yellow lilo and Alex. The camera again jump cuts and the audience witness a mid-shot of the black dog which is totally remote, swimming back to shore with te twig. The natural sound hints danger an separation. The camera returns with a tracking shit of Alex who runs into the water, gets on top of his lilo and paddles out to sea.
The director exploits a long shot of Alex on the yellow lilo. By carrying out this shot, it presents an impression that he is far out at sea and further away than anyone else. The shot creates the idea that Alex is small and vulnerable as he is practically apart from the rest of the swimmers which makes him a clearer target for the shark. The fact that Alex is small, vulnerable and isolated, specifies to the audience and gives to them an impression that something significant is about to happen, this is also due to the fact the camera is constantly focusing on him.
Alex’s isolation frightens the audience because they anticipate something bad is destined to happen to him. Chief Brody continues to watch the water, and is still very anxious about the current situation of a possible shark’s presence in the sea. A close up shot of his face reveals just how much he is agitated with his eyes firmly fixed on the sea. Three jump cuts of him watching the sea also verify to the audience that he is observing the sea exceedingly carefully. The audience would share his concern since they know what could be pout there.
A point of view shot is taken when Brody identifies a black object swimming towards people. This frightens the audience because many of them would presume it is the shark. They are however hugely relieved when they see it was an old man swimming underwater with a black swimming hat on. The shot would have put the audience through the similar emotion to Brody, due to the fact they were watching the incident precisely how Brody would have seen it. Brody is immensely grateful it was not a shark, but is only slightly relaxed. A sunburnt man approaches Brody and begins talking to him blocking Brody’s view of the sea.