Sunday, 5 March 2017

Jaws - Film Review

fig.1 film poster

Directed by Steven Spielberg, ‘Jaws’ is a 1975 American thriller film that is based upon Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel under the same name. The film consists of a number of iconic features including the sound track which is easy recognisable even in today’s culture.
Based within the fictional town of Amity Island the plot is relatively simple following a police officer who is responsible with the safety of the town’s people. During the film a great white shark starts attacking locals which forces Martin Brody, the protagonist to act, ultimately killing the shark at sea. 
Firstly looking at the film in context with its time period ‘Jaws’ is a particularly important step in the development of the summer block buster. The thrill of being scared by a large and deadly force of nature was one that drew people back for more and as a result created a sizable profit. In contrast to the majority of the films previously made, ‘Jaws’ had been marketed with a large budget. A total of 1.8 million US dollars were spent on promoting ‘Jaws’ as a result it became the new highest-grossing film at the North American box office. The film has played a pivotal role in the way media has been used to sell and promote films. From this it is now common place for companies to invest sizable amounts of money in order to sell a film to gather a profit. 
Despite having a fairly straight-forward plot Spielberg was capable of creating a rather detailed and gripping story. Alongside being well advertised the film was able to have a lasting impact upon the viewers. Pitched as a thriller ‘Jaws’ retains its jumps and thrills through the use of a number of techniques used and small details are left behind. A memorable use of camera work in this film is featured within the beginning of the film. The shark is hinted as stalking its first victim. With the use of first person point of view the camera gives a direct view of the shark giving a predator’s view and an impending sense of doom for the selected victim. Combined with the sound track of increasing volume and tempo a sense of unease and tension is created.
One of the biggest features in the film is the shark itself; name Bruce by the film team the robotic creature suffered from a number of mechanical problems. While the animatronic shark did cause delays and an increase in budget it also posed another problem as it did not look authentic in clear focused shots.  However this was used problem was remedied by Spielberg by reducing the amount of shots containing the entire shark. This only helped to create more suspense and was used to great effect. The lack of shark makes it only more shocking when its full size and strength is displayed. Alongside camera angles a number of other devices are used to hide the shark. This included the use of water and lighting. As the camera retained a more plastic property in terms of how it moved through the scenes it is often found that it dips between above and under water. 
Not only is the film effective at creating tension through sound design and camera work it is also capable of telling a strong story. With the core of the plot focusing on the shark the film can be broken into two parts. 
“The first half is more or less an unsophisticated version of Enemy of the People”, “The second half is Three Men in a Boat against the great white killer” (Malcolm, D. 1975)
Following how Spielberg treated his films during his earlier years Jaws revolves around how a single figure steps up and reclaims his man-hood. The protagonist Brody is at first seen as a person in a high position doing menial tasks to satisfy the town’s people. It is in this first half we see Brody being pushed around to conform with the society that he lives in, forsaking the duty he has been charged with (the safety of the town) to satisfy the mayor.
“He's actually scared of the water, doesn't like to swim and, when he sees the giant shark swim past the boat for the first time, we believe him when he informs Quint, very sincerely, "We need a bigger boat."” (Ebert, R. 1975)
At first afraid, Brody eventually confronts the shark in its own territory. Shown as an act of a heroic nature, Brody treks into a foreign land to defeat the monster. It is by his own hands that he kills the shark stepping away from the comfort of home, family and land. Using the water as a metaphor Spielberg is capable of creating two different environments. On land man has no need to struggle and fight to survive and thus have their man-hood removed. On the other hand the water alone is a difficulty that must be overcome and so man has to fight in order to stay alive and retain his status as a man. 
In the end Jaws is a monster film that makes great use of suspense, containing a number of scares that grips the audience leaving an everlasting impression on today’s media.

Ebert, R. 1975 “Jaws” (accessed 03/03/2017)
Malcolm, D. 1975 “Steven Spielberg's Jaws review” (accessed 03/03/2017)
Haflidason, A. 2001 “Jaws (1975)” (accessed 03/03/2017)

Illustration list
fig.1 film poster (accessed 03/03/2017)

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