The film that made generations afraid to go into the water
I know it’s probably a bit of a cliché when someone asks you what your favourite films are and you include Jaws as one of them. I believe when a film has the ability to capture your complete attention for two hours every time you watch it then there must be something special about it Jaws is just that. It is one of the many Spielberg films that made an impact on me as a child, my first viewing was at a video party at primary school the film both fascinated me and scared me in equal measure and has lead to a life long fascination with sharks.
The opening of the film sees a group of teenagers enjoying a bonfire on the beach, Chrissie and a young man go down to water for a late night swim as Chrissie goes into the water the young man she is with falls asleep on the sand oblivious to the horror that is soon to come.
The audience sees Chrissie swimming from under the water almost as the sharks view, the camera is excellent in building up the suspense before she is thrashed violently and left screaming in the water before disappearing out of sight and the great white has taken its first victim. If the first five minutes of the film haven’t grabbed your attention then what are you thinking, pause, rewind, re-watch these opening scenes really establish the film.
“You yell shark, we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July”
The principle character Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) is one of the first on the scene when the body is discovered we see him later typing up the words ‘shark attack’ at the police station the first real sign that someone other than the audience knows all is not well on Amity Island. The town desperately ignores Chief Brody’s pleas to close the beaches as its the 4th July weekend and the news of a shark would drive custom away from the town, by not closing the beaches it ultimately leads to further deaths, eventually they listen and close the beaches of Amity but is it already to late to save the island from the great white roaming the waters?
After Chief Brody brings in Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) an oceanographic expert, to help find the shark they team up with Quint (Robert Shaw) who has offered to catch the shark but only for a huge reward “$10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing”. Brody, Quint and Hooper set off in the Orca a rather run down boat to find and ultimately kill the twenty-five foot, three ton great white shark that’s hunting the waters of Amity.
The scenes that really stand out are the tension and suspense created in the build up for every water scene through the clever camera techniques and the exceptional musical score the audience is often lulled into a false sense of security they know something will happen it is just a matter of when, the fisherman on the edge of the pontoon we only have to see the pontoon break, watch one of the men fall into the water, the pontoon then floats out into the ocean only to rapidly turn round quickly gaining pace on the man swimming to shore at this point the audience do not know if the swimmer will make it or if this swim was his last, It’s this suspense that really makes Jaws. The shark remains mostly unseen for the majority of the film this is what makes Jaws special as it’s character driven and built on reactionsw rather than the over use of special effects what awaits below the water is largely left up to the audiences imagination we see and feel the characters emotions. This could have been very different if the robotic shark had not repeatedly malfunctioned while in the water this was a blessing in disguise.
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”
This is really a pivotal scene of the film as a large majority of the action takes place on the Orca as you don’t really grasp how large the shark is until Chief Brody is throwing the meat into water blissfully unaware of the fast approaching great white and it is at this point the shark really makes an impression the look of horror on Brody’s face he quickly goes to inform Quint that this might be a bigger fish than first anticipated, it is at this point he utters the now famous line “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” completely stating the obvious but none the less a classic quote that even those who haven’t ever seen the film would most likely know the scene it refers to.
There has been many a shark film that has tried to live up to the expectations laid out by Jaws most notably Jaws 2 1978, sequels rarely surpass the original and Jaws has its fair share. It has also laid out the foundations for the new generation of shark films Shark Night 3D, The Reef, Deep Blue Sea, to name but a few, these films are so focused on the special effects the wow factor to the audience when they experience that one moment of terror that they almost lose the storytelling aspect altogether. The characters are often two dimensional and we as an audience are unable to empathise with them do we really care if they get eaten by the seemingly obvious shark lurking in the depths?
Chief Brody: “I used to hate the water”
Hooper: “I can’t imagine why”
Jaws is still really the iconic film that almost set the trend for the visually stunning ‘Summer Blockbuster’ we see today but not every film can live up to the magic Spielberg created back in 1975 and this is one of the many reasons Jaws is so well loved and respected by both critics and fans alike it still manages to retain that magic and I believe it is one of the reasons it is still captivating audiences worldwide time and again a truly Jawsome film!
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