Saturday, 7 March 2015

Film Review - Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)

Fig 1. Jaws Poster.

Jaws is a film that brought with it a memorable soundtrack, which helped create memorable scenes in the film. Suspense was built up regularly in the film and eventually the viewer associates the soundtrack with an incoming shark attack. This is something the film uses against the viewer on one occasion, when the soundtrack builds up once again and a fin slides into view. The audience expects a scene of violence, right up until the point when the two young boys piloting the fin prop reveal themselves (See Fig 2). This scene plays a trick on the viewer and they are left with an unexpected anticlimax. It is however, only one of the many unforgettable moments in the film.

Fig 2. Jaws Still.

Peter Bradshaw has this to say about the character portrayals in the film ''All have something to prove: Dreyfuss is oceanographer Hooper, a superbly natural, utterly real performance, who has to show he's man enough to take down the big fish. Scheider's police chief has to redeem himself after participating in that contemporary political phenomenon, a cover-up: he withheld information about the shark to protect tourism. And Shaw's grizzled seadog Quint is haunted by a chilling wartime memory.'' (Bradshaw, 2012). The characters are well represented and when you learn of their back-stories it doesn't feel forced. It is minimal and subtle, which works well with this film. As Peter Bradshaw states, the characters are brought across very naturally, which makes for a very real performance which makes this film all the more immersive for the viewer.

Roger Ebert states in his review "Jaws" is a great adventure movie of the kind we don't get very often any more. It's clean-cut adventure, without the gratuitous violence of so many action pictures. It has the necessary amount of blood and guts to work -- but none extra. And it's one hell of a good story, brilliantly told.'' (Ebert, 1975). The premise of the story is utterly simplistic and can be boiled down to a single sentence. A series of shark attacks that leads to three men venturing out on a boat in pursuit of the enormous shark responsible for the attacks. However, the story is well told and you don't realise how simple it is until its over. This film is certainly proof that even with a basic plot, with clever directing and character performances it can become a rich experience for any audience.

In his review, Vincent Canby states ''It's a measure of how the film operates that not once do we feel particular sympathy for any of the shark's victims, or even the mother of one, a woman who has an embarrassingly tearful scene that at one point threatens to bring the film to a halt. This kind of fiction doesn't inspire humane responses. Just the opposite. We sign with relief after each attack, smug in our awareness that it happened to them, not us.'' (Canby, 1975). The lack of sympathy is, at least on a technical level, down to the way the camera operates throughout the attacks. It is usually close-up and fast-paced, never lingering for too long on the poor victim. It is also down to the fact that all of the victims, apart from the last, are unknowns to the audience. They are townsfolk who arent introduced to us for more than a minute before they are in the jaws of the shark. It is clearly an action film because there is no lingering on grief or sadness, in its place there is only adrenaline and suspense. 

Illustration List

 Spielberg, S (1975) Figure 1. Jaws Poster.
175f8a7f615bd217eb71/m/s/msp0007_jaws.jpg (Accessed on 02/03/15)

Spielberg, S (1975) Figure 2. Jaws Still. (Accessed on 07/03/15)


Bradshaw, P (2012) (Accessed on 03/03/15)

Canby, V (1975) (Accessed on 07/03/15)

Ebert, R (1975) (Accessed on 07/03/15)

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