Monday, 11 February 2013

Storytelling and Commission: Jaws - Review

Jaws is the movie directed by Steven Spielberg in 1975 and it represents the horror/thriller genre, more specifically the human-vs-nature type.

It tells a story of Amity Island being under the threat of a giant shark that attacks and kills people. Martin Brody (Roy Richard Scheider) the town police officer decides to close the beaches due to the circumstances, though the mayor - Larry Vaughan, is against such decision. Everything changes when the shark strikes again and kills a young boy.

It might be observed that the terror starts before the shark first attacks, though it’s something considered as generally accepted rules of social ladder. Ewig approaches this aspect of the movie and states in the review: ‘It’s surprising how emotionally devastating this story is, in part because of how disempowered the characters are’ (Ewig, 2010). It is not only about the shark attacks; Jaws creates the tension from the very beginning, realizes the audience how irrelevant and puny ordinary people are, compared to those who are considered as the leaders. It can also be noticed during ‘town meetings’ that people are trying to talk and state their rights, though nobody is actually listening to each other. Only when someone important speaks, the crowd listens, eventually follows the orders. Even Amity Island’s chief Brody can’t decide anything without considering the Mayor’s opinion. It gets only worse when three men set off on the boat to catch and kill the shark.

Second part of the movie presents the battle between the nature and humans. This only doubles the feeling of disempower and fear as the shark is obviously a merciless killer lead by primal urge of feeding itself.

It is said that accidents are artists’ allies and it was the same with Spielberg’s Jaws. Production of the movie was causing many problems; nothing was working according to the plan. The budget went beyond the expected, the time of production prolonged, the mechanical shark started falling apart and Spielberg felt this was the last movie in his career.

Knowing about the technical complications, one would state that Jaws was definitely going to be a disaster. However, thanks to ‘happy accidents’ all the glitches turned out to be the movie’s biggest attributes. Spielberg wanted the shark on the screen all the time, though due to the problems with the rubber-skin and inside mechanism, the screen time for the creature has been cut. It created the unique tension and unbearable anticipation. It worked perfectly not only for the opening of the movie, when a young girl is being attacked, as ‘(…)we see the legs of Chrissie (Susan Blacklinie) slowly treading water from below. We know the danger, but she doesn’t, and she is violently devoured’ (Nesbit, N/A), but also for other under water shots. It is an important aspect of the movie. The audience is not able to see the shark, and that creates the fear of unknown.

The whole accruing tension is being accompanied by the score by John Williams, which is probably one of the most popular scores in the history of the cinema. Known even by people who have never seen the whole movie, the music creates a tension which plays along with the visual aspects of the production. It discretely announces the action and important events, however ‘(…) the use of silence is far more powerful and effective than the score (…)’ (Ewing, 2010). Silence is a strong instrument used before in many horror movies, made by different directors. It changes the fictional scene into more believable situation which could happen to everyone. It’s a delicate aspect which, in hands of an inexperienced movie maker, can destroy the whole receipt of the production. However, the use of silence in Jaws is right on spot. Just as the score might seem funny to a contemporary viewer (as it has been used in many parodies), is makes the attacks even more terrifying and makes the audience forget about the fakeness of the shark.

Summing up, Spielberg’s Jaws might be considered as a timeless movie, which can scare people of any age. This is also an evidence of how unexpected events might sometimes help with creating a piece of art, which in case of Jaws made it an iconic production. Lary states a definitive quotation: ‘It’s a lesson most horror film directors have still not learned’ (Lary, 2012).

* Ewing, Blake James (2010) online source:
* Ewing, Blake James (2010) online source:
* Nesbit, John (N/A) online source:
* Lary, Chip (2012) online source: 

2. Stills:
* Still2: 

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