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How does the director Steven Spielberg make ‘Jaws’ a tense and exiting film to watch? Essay

How does the director Steven Spielberg make ‘Jaws’ a tense and exiting film to watch? The film Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1975, featuring various techniques to create suspense,excitement and fear throughout the whole film. This is done using different types of camera shots and movement, music, and mis-en-scene.Its about when a gigantic great white shark begins to terrorise the residents in small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and fisherman set out to stop it.

One of the three significant scenes was, The death of Alex Kitner. the scene takes place on a crowded beach.High key lighting is used through out the scene. The camera uses a tracking shot of a young boy as he goes up to his mother and pleads her to let him have another 10 minutes in the sea. The camera then follows him as he goes to get his lilo and this can create suspense since the audience isn’t sure whether the boy will be the shark’s next victim. His swim shorts are red (red being the colour that attracts sharks as well as being symbolic for danger, fear, and blood). The audience is introduced to different possibilities of the shark’s next victim. This can create suspense since we don’t know who it will be. First, there is the man throwing sticks in the water for his dog to catch- both the man and his dog are possible victims since they are near the sea and it may be that the man has to go in the water himself just in case his dog needs helping. There is also the large lady floating in the water.

Brody spots a black shiny shape swimming towards the woman; and then we realise that it’s just the top of an old man’s swim hat as he swims through the water. The camera shot is level with the water and large lady, so it may make the audience feel that they’re in the sea too. A character in the film, named Brody, is also at the beach. He watches the different people and seems agitated as he is not sure if the shark will attack. As one of Brody’s friends are talking(close up on friends face, and wide shot on the side of his face) he sees a young woman screaming and splashing about in the water, paying no attention to his friend, he stands up, ready for action, and then realises it was her boyfriend lifting her up from the water. These two false alarms create anticipation for the audience since they expect the attack to happen and it doesn’t. A tracking shot is used as the boy rushes into the water with his yellow lilo, and the man calls for his dog.

This implies that something fearful is about to happen since his dog has gone missing. This creates suspense since the audience does not know why and how the dog is gone; and whether he’ll return or not. A low angle is used as the boy’s legs kick under the water,with something hurdling towards him.The Jaws theme music is used creating suspense and fear as it gets closer leading to the build up of Alex Kitners death.(Non digectic sound used) The attack is seen in the distance and the long shot indicates that the people on the beach are too far away to save the boy. A general panic occurs as people rush out of the water this scene becomes very fast paced. We do not see the shark. Causing a sudden sense of anticipation. During this, Brody realises what is happening and the camera quickly zooms in on his terrified face. The zooming-in camera shot signifies the attack as powerful and large, coming towards him; which reflects back on what the actual shark itself is like.

While parents are rush towards the water to get their children Brody still does not enter the water all he does it tell everyone to get out. After the attack is over, a yellow lilo washes up on the shore, soaked with blood. A high angle is used, the colour yellow is used as the symbolic colour for danger and warning throughout the scene. The man who owns the dog is wearing yellow shorts, and his dog has been attacked by the shark. The boy was floating on a yellow lilo, and he became the shark’s second victim.Usually the colour for danger (red or black) and yellow is normally the colour for happiness and sunshine. So already the audience can sense a tone of difference portrayed in this film.

Another scene is Hooper and the boat. It takes place in the Amity sea. Low key lighting is used and it is very misty.This is to cause tension and fear as people most vulnerable when it is dark. When Hooper finds Ben Gardeners boat there is no body there, this cause a sense of mystery. So he goes in the water to find him. Hooper then finds a sharks tooth there is a close up on the tooth. So the audience can try and picture how big the shark is .On his way down calm creepy music is played, Steven does this to trick the viewer into thinking nothing will be happen but then Hooper sees a hole and out comes the remains of Ben the camera zooming to Ben’s face to create more fear. Hooper screams in shock.The music becomes much more high pitched. Hooper then gets away in fear of what will happen if he stay in there any longer.

The third and final scene is the climax. This scene takes place in Amity sea, and has a mixture of both high and low key lighting.The boat is sinking this is shown with a long shot. Brody is stuck inside with the shark on its way. As he tries to find an exit the shark breaks through the window and attacks, with is mouth wide open(close up) and then after an extreme close up of its teeth. This done to scare the audience and is very effective. Brody then puts a gas canister in the sharks mouth with then causes it to retreat but no for long. Spielberg does this to give the audience a sense of relief so when the shark attacked again it will be more shocking.The bells ring to show the boat is sinking.(digetic sound).High pitched music begins. Brody climbs up the pole armed. The shark attacks again.

He stabs it with a shark pole.(low angle). There is now a close up of the shark trying to bite Brody (high angle) and a long shot of him trying kill it. The shark eats the pole a goes back into the sea. Brody now prepares to kill the shark by shooting at the gas canister in the sharks mouth.The scene is becomes faced paced as the shark heads toward the boat,waiting for the last second Brody finally shoots at the canister creating a mass explosion(wide shot) of the shark pieces. The is done to cause suspense and excitement for the audience, as waiting till the last second to destroy the shark is more fearful and interesting.

These were not the only scenes that were tense and exiting, there was the death of Quint. Both high key lighting and low were used. Since Brody went to the back of the boat when the shark attacked he was not killed.Then the shark came from the water (low key lighting) and opened mouth, close up on mouth, to eat them the boat tilted so that Quint would be falling into its mouth. This was done to show that Quint was powerless to make it more cruel and horrifying death. As quint was sliding it became more fast paced and there were cuts between the shark and Quint this was to build suspense. When Quint was bit, the sound of his bones cracking was to add more effect to make this more realistic and ruthless, him shouting(digetic sound also added effect). As the shark swayed him side to side it became more dreadful to watch but this is what made the scene interesting. When he was dead and the
shark pulled him down this built the suspense and what made the scene so captivating.

I think Jaws was ground breaking and intense it was made in the 19s and is still so popular. The shark theme music was great it had a good plot and there was a good connection between characters. Some of the shots were great. e.g. the zoom shot. I think people might not like Jaws because of its effects as the 21st century prefers what they watch to be HD and the action scene to look extremely realistic (shark to not look fake), also Jaws was the type of movie which did not let see the shark at the beginning to build the suspense but some people don’t like that other classify Jaws a more of a thriller than a horror. Jaws is still poplar today for many reasons- it theme became popular as you could not forget it, the suspense of not knowing how the shark looked and the fact that everyone thought it was destined to fail as when they started making the movie they had not script, no cast and no shark until Steven came…

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