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Suspense Techniques Applied In Jaws Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1566 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Jaws the action packed American film that sank its teeth in to the box offices in 1975 became major must see for years after. It was directed by Steven Spielberg, who said he made jaws as an experiment of fear. The film is about the jaws of a great white shark that starts to hunt off the Coast of Amity Island, terrorising a small holiday resort. After a young girl is attacked Chief Brody, a newcomer from New York who came to the Amity looking, or so he thought, for a change from the fears of the city, was told by a doctor that there is a shark behind the girl’s death. Brody asks amity’s Mayor to close the beaches, but town officials dismiss the find as a boating accident when she is found on the beach and as it is the fourth of July weekend the beaches stay open and the festivities continue as planned. 

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Being described by the critics the film that made people afraid to go in to the water jaws became an instant classic. Even the memorable title sequence, which is basically two notes, is able to strike fear and resurrect memories of the dreaded beast. The shark is connected to the music in the title sequence; we know this because the music is playing while the unknown is moving through the deep. We also know the music and the shark are connected because we hear it when the shark is near or about to attack. We also hear a bell before and after an attack. Bells and buoys are used to tell ships and boats that they are too close to shore this signifies that the shark is hunting in very shallow water it is also the shark’s presence as if the shark brushes past it before and after the attack.

In the second attack the camera tracks up and down the beach, first to a lady walking to the water’s edge, then follows the boy back up the beach to his parents. The boy asks his mother if he can stay in the water for a while longer, this shows that the boy is well behaved and obedient. His Mother looks at his hands, which are all wrinkled and allows him ten more minutes in the water.

Instead of going straight in to the sea the boy collects his lilo and then runs to the water’s edge. As he runs in we see a man in a yellow T-shirt throwing a stick for his dog. 

The camera uses a technique called a jump cut to take close shots of people in the water one by one as if they could be potential victims. As we look around the beach we see yellow umbrellas, bathing suits, towels and lilo. This is significant because yellow is associated with cowards or fear. As the camera films the shoreline, we see the man in the yellow T-shirt again but this time is calling for his dog. As the dog is nowhere to be seen the camera focus’ on a stick floating on the water’s surface, this is called miss-en-scene. As there is no music the audience don’t know whether the shark has struck again or the dog has run off somewhere.

We also see point of view shots for example when chief Brody is looking around the beach; we see it from his point of view. When we get a close up of Brody we see an empty lifeguards chair in the background. We also see one from the shark’s point of view or as if the audience is the shark looking up from the seabed at the boy on the yellow lilo, the shark then attacks.

As Brody is looking around the beach he sees the attack a technique called a reverse zoom shot is used to create the sudden realisation that Brody’s shark theory is correct. The alarm is raised and everyone evacuates the water. Parents’ search for their children and as the boy’s mother tries to find him. The boy’s bloodstained lilo washes up on shore.

In this part of the film we feel sorry for Brody because we hear a conversation saying ‘if you weren’t born on the island you will never be a true islander. This implies that Brody and his family are outsiders; it also implies that the audiences are outsiders too. Also if news gets out that it is a shark attack that killed a young girl Brody would be blamed for not closing the beaches, although the mayor harassed him to keep them open. 

When Brody goes out to sea with Quin and Hooper the camera films the boat sailing out to sea through the massive jaw bones of a shark in Quins warehouse this represents the three men going in to the heart of the shark’s territory.

The music in jaws can create a lot of tension for example, when the head came out of the hole in the boat; it makes the audience physically jump because of the music. The music is also like a heartbeat it gets louder and faster as something approaches or as someone gets scared. The music is like a motif or a signature tune that represents the shark, this is how Spielberg has trained the audience. As we get used to the two-note motif representing the shark, as soon as we here it we expect the shark to attack, or we know that the shark is lurking quite close.

When Brody, Hooper and Quin are on the boat happy music is played like the music of pursuit. Spielberg also creates tension when they catch the wrong shark. With chaos erupting all around Hooper asks to see the first victim. In studying the first victim Hooper discovers she definitely did not have a boating accident and that it was a shark larger than any, he has seen before. Down at the docks someone does manage to reel in an impressive sized tiger shark. While everyone is celebrating, Hooper is the one who finds out the wrong shark has been caught. He states that that while that species has attacked humans and is foreign to the waters the bite radius doesn’t match up to the first victim. As Hooper is an outsider no one is inclined to listen. To prove his point Hooper and Brody sneak down to the docks to cut open the shark.

Inside the shark was a large solid metal license plate from a boat, but among other strange findings there are no human remains. If a smaller shark can rip off a solid metal plate, then an even bigger shark could sink a boat. We also can tell the shark is very big because Brody’s son goes in to shock after seeing the shark.

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Because we have not seen the shark we also fear the unknown. The director also creates fear when Hooper, Quin and Brody are on the boat drinking and swapping shark stories. They start singing, which masks the shark that starts smashing in to the hull of the boat. There is also a contrast between film horror and real horror, Quin was on the ship that delivered the Hiroshima bomb to Japan, he describes how the ship sank and as it was a secret operation nobody could help them. He had to watch as sharks ate his shipmates. This could be the reason why Quin feels that he should kill the shark, like a personal vendetta 

Fear is also expressed through the character’s reactions. When Brody is throwing slurry (fish guts and blood) over the side of the boat, the shark rises out of the water. As Brody is the only one to have seen the shark he tells Quin ‘were gonna need a bigger boat’. This implies that the shark is very big and has an advantage over them. We can also tell that the shark is abnormally large because he takes three barrels under water most sharks would only have taken down one or two at the most. 

The first time we see the whole shark is when it tries to sink the boat. Brody tries to call for help on the radio but Quin smashes all the communication lines as the fight between him and the shark is personal. Quin personifies the shark by calling it a ‘he’ and makes him sound smart as it looks like the shark is leading them out to sea. 

The first two attacks are close together, frenzied, like a shark attacks its prey. This makes the audience think there are many more attacks to come. Usually horror films space out there murders, attacks or deaths to give the audience chance to recover and be more scared next time around. 

The third attack is set on the fourth of July because in is a national American holiday and families going away to beaches. The fourth of July is also Americas Independence Day. I think that being an island automatically unites them but the fact that the island is a seasonal attraction brings them together to achieve a common goal, which is based on the tourist business. In this attack broody’s son is involved we feel an attachment to him because he is the hero’s son. Adults would feel sympathetic towards the parents as they might have children of their own. 

I personally thought the scariest part of the film was at the end when Hooper gets attacked in the metal cage up until when Brody kills the shark. There is a lot of tension and questions to be answered like who will be killed – Brody or the shark? What happens to Hooper? Again the music shows this tension by dramatically gaining speed. We also see the significance of the air canisters as Hooper shouted at him when he knocked them over (they could explode).

Brody throws two large air canisters in to the sharks menacing jaws and fires a gun at them. The shark explodes in to tiny pieces. Hooper returns to the surface, the water laced with blood. It is a relief to the audience that both Brody and Hooper are alive.

Released in 1975 it continues to captivate audiences and still gives everyone a reason not to go in the water.


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