Cutting Edge Film Review Jaws

Figure 1 Jaws is an adventure/thriller film from 1975, which also has aspects of horror. It was the third film directed by Steven Spielberg who was only 28 and was not that well known at this time. Along with his two earlier films, Duel and Sugarland Express, he had previously only directed some episodes for TV series. Jaws is based on the 1974 novel of the same name, by Peter Benchley, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film, with Carl Gottlieb. With Jaws, Spielberg showcases an amazing ability to thrill and shock an audience and at the time of its release, it was then the highest-grossing film ever. Plot: Holidaymakers swimming in the sea at the fictional seaside holiday town of Amity Island fall victim to a huge man-eating great white shark. The local police chief wants to close the beach but the mayor refuses at this stage as he is more worried about the town’s loss of income from the tourists if they are not allowed on the beach. When the shark continues to attack people, the police chief joins forces with a young marine biologist and an experienced professional shark hunter. The three very different central characters are at the core of the film. The police chief, Brody, is originally from the city and hates the water, the marine biologist, Hooper, is young and over confident and Quint, the shark hunter, is the typical world weary salty old sea dog who demands a large sum of money to kill the shark. The trio end up together out at sea on Quint’s old boat, trying to outwit the gigantic shark, who shows a surprising degree of cunning in its attempts to get at them. The giant man-eating great white shark is not seen for about the first hour and a quarter of the film. Although this tactic ultimately worked very well, it was actually largely due to technical problems with the mechanical shark (known as Bruce) which caused a lot of filming

time to be lost while the special effects crew tried to get it working. So Spielberg builds the tension by filming from the shark’s point of view instead and makes the audience use their imagination as to what is attacking the various swimmers and fishermen. The shots from beneath the water of the swimmers’ legs kicking, along with John Williams’ famous score, lead up to a maximum scare factor without even actually seeing the monster shark. It is frightening enough just to know the predator is there. - “the special effects crew just couldn't get a realistic looking shark to work properly, and so Spielberg had to invent other ways of suggesting menace. What ensued was a brilliant model of alluding to terror rather than depicting it outright, and Spielberg's "workaround" gives Jaws a lot of its visceral sense of horror. As any psychiatrist worth his or her salt will tell you, your imagination can conjure fears far more "real" than anything mere reality can present to your actual eyes.” - J. Kauffman, 2012

Figure 2 Spielberg is very skilled at lulling the audience into thinking they know what is coming, only for a different outcome to happen, and then throwing the shocks at them when they are least expecting it. Apparently, in the scene when the severed head of the fisherman suddenly popped up right in front of Hooper, although the preview audiences screamed, it was not loud enough for Spielberg. He wanted more screaming from the audience so the severed head scene was re-shot in the swimming pool belonging to editor Verna Fields. No matter how many times ‘Jaws’ is viewed, that moment still has the power to shock. - “He crafts scares with a superb elegance. He sends the film barrelling at you one way and then playfully pulls back from what you think is about to happen – like the scene where the frantically swimming fishermen finds what is pursuing him is only be a piece of driftwood – only to then sneak in from the side while you are not looking – the beach scene where a shark attacks children in a nearby inlet while everyone’s attention is diverted by children with a fake fin. The build-up is such that the audience is like putty when Spielberg pulls his actual jumps – the scene where Richard Dreyfuss dives on an abandoned boat and a head pops out from the hull never fails to make an entire theatre jump.” - R. Scheib, 200?

Figure 3 Spielberg again uses the tactic of not actually showing much of the shark, apart from a shadowy, grey shape and the fin slicing through the water, but of indicating where it is by the barrels attached to its body. As it swims off, preparing to attack the boat, the barrels bob and bounce through the waves at alarming speeds, showing just how fast and strong this monster fish is. Once again, the audience does not have to be able to see the shark, the implication that it is there and the knowledge of what it does, is enough to create a thrilling scene. - “Later in the picture, as our heroes are on the Orca (Quint's falling apart fishing ship) Spielberg uses another amazing visionary device. Quint's plan to kill the shark is to force it to the surface by harpooning large yellow floating barrels to its body. After the barrel is attached to the shark we see its incredible speed by the way the barrel skis across the water. Once again, Spielberg is establishing the shark's whereabouts without actually showing it, leaving its physicality to our mind in the way any great piece of literature would.” - S. Henisey, 200?

Illustrations Figure 1: http://www.film.com/movie/-jaws/18025/main Figure 2: http://spectrumculture.com/2010/06/film-dunce-jaws.html/ Figure 3: http://somefilmnerd.wordpress.com/tag/speilberg/ Figure 4: http://orangemonk.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/the-neer-do-well-narwhal/ Bibliography Kauffman, 2012, Available at: http://www.blu-ray.com/ Review: http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Jaws-Blu-ray/7547/#Review [Accessed online 20th February 2013] Scheib, 200?, Available at: http://moria.co.nz/ Review: http://0to5stars-moria.ca/horror/jaws-1975.htm [Accessed online 20th February 2013] Henisey, 200?, Available at: http://www.amovieaweek.com/ Review: http://www.amovieaweek.com/jaws.html [Accessed online 20th February 2013]

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