Jaws Essay

Analysis of Jaws Essay

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Analysis of Jaws

This essay will analyse the film ‘Jaws’ and look at the ways that Steven Spielberg (The director) builds suspense and scares the audience in the film. Jaws was the box-office sensation of 1975 and the number-one hit movie of the decade until 1977's ‘Star Wars’; this was a time when the success or failure of a few blockbusters began to determine the course of the entire motion picture industry. The film is about a killer shark that causes havoc among an island resort town, called Amity, somewhere in New England. The film is set on the 4th of July this is because in America the 4th of July is a national holiday. It is one of the only times in the year in which the whole of America…show more content…

The scene looks so innocent, but we then see a high angle shot of the teenagers who are unaware of the threat nearby. We then see a wide shot of the sea and can hear the noise of the waves crashing against the shore. Then above the calm noise of the sea we hear the load cry of a buoy with its bell ringing. The bell is a warning sound and gives us the impression that something bad is going to happen. We also know that the girl will be part of the attack for a two reasons. One, the camera focuses on her and follows her around the screen and two, she is the first person in the water and we know that the there is a contrast between the safety of the land and the dangers that lurk in the sea.

Now that the young girl is in the sea, we being to hear the theme of the shark. The two very low semitones create suspense in the viewer because we know the shark is nearby and that the young girl is in danger. The two notes begin to get faster and faster, until there is silence and we see the young girl swimming. We know something is going happen, but we are in suspense because the music has stopped and we are waiting to see if the shark is still there. We then get our answer when we see the girl, seemingly getting pulled underneath the water. We do not see what is pulling her down but we know it is something strong and powerful.

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"No". There's a word Steven Spielberg probably hasn't heard in a while. Back in 1974, though, it was a different story. Back in 1974, Steven Spielberg had yet to make Jaws. He'd seen the galley proofs of Peter Benchley's bestseller on producer David Brown's desk. "What's this about?" he remembers thinking, "a porno dentist?" Not quite. But although the transcript could hardly be described as high art, Spielberg was sold.

Having recently moved to Malibu, where he had taken to staring out to sea for hours at a time, the concept tapped into his psyche. As he himself says, "I read it and felt that I had been attacked. It terrified me, and I wanted to strike back." Zanuck and Brown turned him down nonetheless. Only when their first choice, Dick Richards (who had caused concern by continually referring to "the whale"), wavered did they call Spielberg back.

And although by this stage he had convinced himself the project wasn't for him, legend has it that on arriving at the producers' office to find them wearing the Jaws sweatshirts he'd had commissioned after that first fateful read (to convince them he was the man for the job) he rescinded. "We shamed him," Zanuck said, "into staying on." Whatever its genesis, Jaws was Spielberg's breakthrough. The first summer blockbuster, it was also the first to ever break the $100 million mark (worldwide it exceeded five times that) and single-handedly caused a downturn in the package holiday trade. "For years he just scared us," commented his sister Anne after an early screening. "Now he gets to scare the masses."

And didn't he just. The head popping out of the boat (re-shot from a different angle when preview audiences didn't jump enough), the moment the shark's head conies bursting through the surface, the first attack, by an unseen predator — our primal fears are tweaked incessantly. This last factor, the unseen element, is crucial. For despite a 27-year old Spielberg publicly asserting that, "I watch hundreds of old movies but I haven't learned that much from them," there was undoubtedly one lesson he took on board. And where better to study than the school of Alfred Hitchcock?

"A bomb is under the the table, and it explodes: that is surprise", the auteur famously observed. "A bomb is under the table, but it does not explode", that is suspense.

Spielberg's decision to follow suit, not unleashing his demon for over an hour — although there is the argument that endless technical difficulties with Bruce (the nickname, based on that of his attorney, he gave Robert Mattey's mechanical sharks) one, two and three contributed to the process — pays off handsomely.

Some say, however, that Jaws is essentially Duel 2. Certainly there are similarities (mirrored by Spielberg employing the same dinosaur sound effect for the deaths of truck then shark), but this later work thrives in the defter touches that pepper its perfect three-act chronology. The famous reverse zoom; Brody looking through the shark book; the confrontation between him and Mrs Kintner; the use of fences on land, in comparison with empty horizons at sea, to convey our protagonists' isolation; the use of the colour yellow (the lilo, the barrels, the torch) and the primary visual stimulus, to suggest impending danger.

If the cast also gels seamlessly, such harmony didn't come without a struggle. Zanuck wanted Charlton Heston as Brody ("What?" shrieked Spielberg. "Moses? You want Moses? Everybody'll know he'll win!") and Sterling Hayden as Quint. Spielberg's ideal for the role was Lee Marvin, and thought Jon Voight spot-on for Hooper. Benchley meanwhile (who, it has to be said, had been awkward throughout, having seen his three original drafts radically re-written), frankly, wanted shooting for his egotistical dream troika of Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen.

And if the equally problematic Dreyfuss, who complained constantly that he'd, "rather watch this movie than shoot it," took some convincing, it's unthinkable that the final result — including cameos from Spielberg (the voice on Quint's radio) and Benchley (a reporter), as well as sublime turns from Gary and Hamilton in support — could have been any more masterful. Add to that the timeless script, by Howard Sackler, Carl Gottlieb and John Milius (said to be largely responsible for the Indianapolis monologue, though Shaw's input is acknowledged); John Williams' score (even though Spielberg laughed on first hearing it), and the equation is complete.

An equation all the more impressive considering that both bigger budgets and time frames were needed in the wake of a disastrous shoot, nicknamed "Flaws" by its crew, in Martha's Vineyard.

Zanuck and Brown's suggestion of, "We'll get a trained one!" hardly helped solve the shark issues, Gottlieb and Spielberg were nearly killed in seafaring accidents and a sinking Orca had expensive consequences, despite the director's reputed order to: "Fuck the actors! Save the sound department!" Rendering Spielberg's vow on wrapping what arguably remains his finest moment, perhaps not altogether surprising. "My next picture will be on dry land," he said solemnly. "There won't even be a bathroom scene."

Rightly lauded, Jaws has lost none of its power to terrify. A film of immense, visceral and psychological power.

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