Film Review: Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" (1975)
Figure 1. Jaws Movie Poster
Based on the equally best-selling book, Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” (1975) is an adventure that will shock and entertain. When a great white man eating shark surfaces and feasts on the residents of a small town called Amity, it is then up to a police chief to help capture the creature and save the bay.
The thing about “Jaws” (1975) is that it can be perceived as quite an honest film in a sense that it doesn’t include many camera gimmicks and special effects, other than the giant mechanical sharks. Spielberg uses more simpler techniques to convey tension and suspense. Almar Haflidason observes, “This includes a fearless use of long shots (not popular in Hollywood) which helps convey both isolation for the victims and endows the shark with seemingly god-like hunting powers.” (Haflidason, A. 2001) What’s interesting about this is the fact that by using low-fi techniques, Spielberg has still managed to create such dynamic sequences when encountering the underwater predator, thus conveying that it’s more about how one utilises a camera rather than relying on special effects.
Figure 2. The First Attack
However, despite not using special effects, there are some other effects used to build tension as the story progresses. The acting within the film can appear to be somewhat placid at the beginning, with perhaps not that much emotion conveyed in each performance, which is an interesting take on Spielberg’s artistic choices. As Vincent Canby states in his review, “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, V. 1975) In a sense, having an unsympathetic reaction towards the characters is perhaps a clever tactic on the director’s behalf for drawing the audience in. Although feeling relieved after an attack, we are still threatened by the creature, thus initially reacting with fright to the jump scares.
Figure 3. The Shark and The Police Chief
But what is it about “Jaws” (1975) that truly places the terror in our hearts and minds? We all know that the true star of the film would be the mechanical shark, designed by former Walt Disney special effects chief, Robert Mattey, which is nicknamed ‘Bruce’. Pet names aside, the marvel that is this 25-foot polyurethane shark has made his impression with his ferocious killings and disturbing speed with his fin cutting the waters like a knife. Whilst making a comparison to Merian C. Cooper's and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s “King Kong” (1933) and Tod Browning’s “Dracula” (1931), Arthur Cooper declares that, “When the horror comes from Transylvania, there's always a comfortable giggle behind the shudders. Sharks cut closer to home. Spielberg believes that “everybody likes to dice with death. After Jaws, I think a lot of people will rush into the water, not out of it. It's gambling with the unknown.”” (Cooper, A. 2012)
And perhaps it is this sort of stunt that Spielberg wanted to perform to trigger the thrill seeking vibes of some movie-goers, but ultimately it is the ambition of the at-the-time 27 year old director that has drawn in our attention to the detail in his work which audiences have come to know and love over the years.
Canby, V. (1975) ‘Entrapped by ‘Jaws’ of Fear’ (21.06.75) In: http://www.nytimes.com/ (1975) [Online] At: http://www.nytimes.com/1975/06/21/movies/moviesspecial/21JAWS.html?_r=0 (Accessed on 12.04.15)
Cooper, A. (2012) ‘Jaws’s Anniversary: Newsweek’s 1975 Review’ (20.06.12) In: http://www.thedailybeast.com/ (2012) [Online] At: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/20/jaws-anniversary-newsweek-s-1975-review.html (Accessed on 12.04.15)
Haflidason, A. (2001) ‘Jaws (1975)’ (09.03.01) In: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (2001) [Online] At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/07/14/jaws_review.shtml (Accessed on 12.04.15)
Figure 1. 'Jaws Movie Poster' (1975) [Movie Poster] At: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71CTreJGV5L._SL1500_.jpg (Accessed on 12.04.15)
Figure 2. 'The First Attack' (1975) [Movie Still] At: http://goodfilmguide.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Jaws-01.jpg (Accessed on 12.04.15)
Figure 3. 'The Shark and The Police Chief' (1975) [Movie Still] At: http://wallpapers111.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/jaws-wallpaper-hd-4.jpg (Accessed on 12.04.15)