Jaws is a thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg in 1975. The film tells us the story of a town that is being tormented by an enormous great white shark.
One of the most iconic and well known features to this film is it's sound track composed by John Williams. This sound track is known world wide and could be considered as one of the most tension fueled musical scores. As soon as the audience hears the start of the famous score we know that something horrific is a about to ensue and an attack from the shark is on its way. This warning then creates tension; we know something is about to happen but we just don't know when. "Its tone of impending terror is more responsible for the power of the film than the sightings of the beast itself." (Haflidason, 2001). However, in some scenes the soundtrack is not used at all, this giving a larger scare when something pops out from the scene. An example of this is when we see Hooper scuba diving to inspect a boat. We expect something bad to happen considering its dark and Hooper is underwater, but just when you think everything is safe, no warning music to be heard, Spielberg throws a terrifying dead body into the face of the audience producing a massive shock, seen in Fig. 2.
Another way Spielberg creates the fear factor in Jaws is not actually seeing the shark for the majority of the film. "Steven Spielberg's strategy all through the film, where the shark is more talked about than seen, and seen more in terms of its actions than in the flesh." (Ebert, 2000). This creates the fear of the unknown for both the characters and the audience. We know and have seen what the beast can do but we don't know where it is on when its going to attack. Spielberg gives us this feeling throughout the whole film by showing us, not even five minutes into the film, a horrendous attack on a helpless teenager. as seen in Fig. 3.
However, this fear factor did not come down to purely directional genius,but also technical difficulties revolving around the shark itself. Due to many malfunctions, shots of the shark seemed far to unrealistic to be shown and so were discarded. This yet proved to make the film a massive success, as the difficulties lead to amazing camera work such as point of view shots from the shark. "Although these difficulties made filming a nightmare for Spielberg and his cast and crew, they lead to most of the film’s suspense and critical acclaim." (Stephenson, 1998). These shots puts us in the fins of the shark just before an attack on an unsuspecting victim. We feel helpless by wanting to warn the victim that we know there is an attack so close by but are unable to do anything about it.
There are many other shots in the film that create a sense of how the characters are feeling. One in particular that stood out to me was a shot of Brody on the beach as he realizes an attack is occurring. Spielberg uses a gut wrenching zoom onto the main character to create the feeling that Brody's heart has just dropped and really brings out the fear spread across his face (Fig. 4).
Ebert, R (2000) Jaws Film Review http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-jaws-1975 (Accessed on 11/02/14)
Haflidason, A (2001) Jaws Film Review http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/07/14/jaws_review.shtml (Accessed on 11/02/14)
Stephenson, J (1998) Jaws and Spielberg's Rise to Auteur Status http://jawsmovie.com/1998/05/jaws-and-spielbergs-rise-to-auteur-status/ (Accessed on 11/02/14)
Figure 1, Jaws (1975) Steven Spielberg [Film Poster] USA, Zanuck/Brown Productions, http://2warpstoneptune.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/jaws-poster.jpg (Accessed on 11/02/14)
Figure 2, Jaws (1975) Steven Spielberg [Film Still] USA, Zanuck/Brown Productions, http://images.fandango.com/MDCsite/images/featured/201208/jaws-dead-body.jpg (Accessed on 11/02/14)
Figure 3, Jaws (1975) Steven Spielberg [Film Still] USA, Zanuck/Brown Productions, http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-xmYfgxy927A/UCQ2Akfx5hI/AAAAAAAAIqs/mqnp8vh98TI/s400/Jaws-first-victim-swimmer.jpg (Accessed on 11/02/14)
Figure 4, Jaws (1975) Steven Spielberg [Film Still] USA, Zanuck/Brown Productions, http://4.bp.blogspot.com/--WE9Gg0XqGo/UCQ2APV-AEI/AAAAAAAAIqk/4ifjKHBtE40/s1600/Jaws-chief-roy-scheider.jpg (Accessed on 11/02/14)