Steven Spielberg is arguably one of the most crowd-pleasing directors known in the filming industry, for his films have a feeling of whimsy to them that makes audiences become engaged with his work. In 1975 Spielberg, would direct an adaptation about a killer shark simply known as “Jaws”.
The narrative is a very simple one to follow, the film starts off with a shark attack killing a woman and her remains found by the town's sheriff Brody. In response to this attack, Brody tries to close the beach in fear of more attacks, however, the mayor of the town refuses to let him close it down, even after a boy is killed he is still adamant to keep the beach open. To stop the attacks on the people of Amity, Brody gets the help of shark expert, Matt and fishing man, Quint to finally get rid of this killing menace.
Jaws is a 1974 novel by American writer Peter Benchley and a year after its publication, Spielberg decided to make the book into a film. Rumour has it that the mechanical shark would continuously break on set and it was a nightmare to fix, hence why the shark is not in the film as much as Spielberg wanted. It is also rumoured that the shark’s name is Bruce, named after Spielberg’s lawyer, due to how many problems were happening throughout the film. It is thanks to “Jaws” that audiences have summer blockbusters today as this reviewer states “Jaws is still a presence greatly felt in other summer blockbusters today. Piece-by-piece, the audience started to put together just how massive and dangerous the monster was, just like in Jaws.” (Winkler, 2015) what this means is that Spielberg has made a revolution in filming by making every summer filled with enjoyment and excitement for the new films in the summer as well as creating a great genre for monster films.
There are many themes that can be linked to this film, however, some members of the audience might think that the main theme of “Jaws” is consumerism and how it affects the main characters. The whole point of the film is to stop the shark, but the whole reason behind the need to keep Amity open, despite the risk, is for money and customers to come onto the beach. There is a quote from the film by the shark expert Matt where he states “what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine an eating machine”. (Dreyfuss, Jaws 1975) what this means is that the show is a metaphor for consumerism for it shows that consumerism will go to the full extent and extreme actions to get what it wants. For example, the mayor is only interested in getting money and business onto the beach and he is being consumed in this thought process.
In the film, audiences will notice that there are two villains or, there is only one, and it is not the shark. There is one character that stands out the most who is a portrayed as a villain and that is the Mayor, for he always tells the sheriff Brody that no matter what, the beach must stay open and he is willing to risk the lives of the people who live in Amity, for he states “I'm only trying to say that Amity is a summer town. We need summer dollars. Now, if the people can't swim here, they'll be glad to swim at the beaches of Cape Cod, the Hamptons, Long Island... “(Hamilton, 1975) making him come across as a single-minded person, that he has one goal in mind – profit.
The important thing about this film to note is its use of the camera. Spielberg cleverly uses the camera from two angles: the shark’s viewpoint and the poor victim it is about to attack. From the shark’s point of view what the audience sees is a slow creeping shot underneath the water towards the victim as demonstrated in figure 2. Whilst in the other shots, all the main characters and the victims are looking happy at first, enjoying the water until suddenly grabbed and shaken about by the shark shown in figures 3. What this clever use of camera does is give the audience a strong sense of being vulnerable. For watching this makes the audience member feel like there is nothing they can do to stop the impending doom that is about to occur on the screen, making the horror of this spectacular film very real to the audience. It works its advantage of the shark slowly coming towards a victim and the victim being completely stripped to pieces making the film interesting and scary for most shots and yet we never see the shark fully until the end.
Spielberg knows how to indulge audiences with not only a great story but through his themes of consumerism, the idea of who the main villain is arguably the subtle villain rather than the shark. Spielberg’s cleverly planned camera shots create a sense of being vulnerable. This film is truly open to the ideas of shark attacks and a great setup for horror for its clever use of these three elements making it more exciting for the viewer, making them want to watch more as the story continues. “Jaws” is a delight yet terrifying experience to watch.
- · Jaws (1975) Directed by Steven Spielberg USA: R. Dreyfuss
- · Jaws (1975) Directed by Steven Spielberg USA: M. Hamilton
- · Winkler, J., Hymas, T., Rice, M., Espino, J., Gioino, C. and Stoetzel, K. (2015) The film canon: Jaws (1975). Available at: http://theyoungfolks.com/featured/the-film-canon-jaws-1975/58289 (Accessed: 25 February 2017).
- Farzana, a (2012) The 10 most famous movie posters of all time. Available at: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/502010689695730879/ (Accessed: 28 February 2017). Figure 1
- Mortimer, C. and profile, V. my complete (1980) 24 frames: Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg). Available at: http://colonelmortimer.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/24-frames-jaws-1975-steven-spielberg.html (Accessed: 28 February 2017). Figure 2
- Celluloid, S. (2012) The shark never worked better! JAWS (1975). Available at: http://www.sinfulcelluloid.com/2012/08/the-shark-never-worked-better-jaws-1975/ (Accessed: 28 February 2017). Figure 3