Jaws Cinematography Essay
During the film Steve Spielberg uses music, a mysterious shark and camera techniques such as simultaneous track and zoom, long shot, close up shots and medium shots to build suspense, tension and scare the audience. The music represents the shark, especially its movements and its presence. In the title sequence the camera is moving along the seabed like a shark. Spielberg makes the audience believe that the camera is viewing things through the shark’s eyes, he uses a camera shot called point of view shot. The music makes the shark seem a mystery because you haven’t yet seen the shark but you can feel its presence.
The music clouds your vision and makes you imagine and believe something that actually isn’t even there. It builds tension and the music gives a dramatic and eerie effect. Other example of how music of silence is used to scare the audience or build tension will be discussed next. The first scene, Chrissie strips to go swimming in the sea, the man from the same camp – where music is playing and the atmosphere is happy and relaxed – is chasing her towards the beach. The man is drunk and collapses; Chrissie has been in the sea already, for a long time on her own.
The water is calm and you can here it lap against itself and brush up to the shore and a warning bell is heard that is used to warn ships and other obstacles. Suddenly the camera shot dips under the water, the dramatic music from the title sequence begins. The audience can see Chrissie swimming, as the music continues getting faster the sharks presence is made known to the audience. As the shark approaches her – her legs are dangling downwards under the water. Just as soon as we have a close up of Chrissie legs, the camera shot goes above the water watching Chrissie she looks around.
Everything is silent, by surprise the shark suddenly pulls from below (the camera makes it believable). Chrissie starts screaming, there’s splashing, lots of tension as the shark underneath, supposedly biting her legs moves about Chrissie. There’s a close up of her face, Spielberg has a shown a close up to build tension and to show Chrissie’s agony. When Chrissie goes under for the final time, there is a ripple where she’d just disappeared; you can’t see any blood because it is dark. It’s strange because the sea is extremely still after such a vicious and terrifying shark attack, it’s as if nothing ever appened.
I think Spielberg’s idea was to leave the audience bewildered. This frightens the audience because the shark attack was not expected it was camouflaged cleverly to draw the audience away from the main plot of the scene. Another example of this would be at the time of the second attack when a boy called Alex Kintner is brutally killed by the shark. On the beach there is a radio playing in the background, there’s chatter and the atmosphere is relaxed but we know chief Police Martin is tense as he watches out to sea because he has the knowledge of what could happen and the camera shot shows it.
A close up draws us to his creased and tense face and his eyes show he is scared. This puts the audience on the look out for anything suspicious. When Alex glides into the water on his yellow raft, it is silent. As the camera cuts back to focusing on the beach, the radio is heard again in the background. All the children rush into the sea screaming, laughing and splashing. This is a good cover, and the audience may start to relax but there’s still that fear, of maybe something happening. The camera shows Alex on the raft going further out into the water so not to get caught in the crowd with all the splashing.
The camera suddenly dives under water and the shark’s presence is made known to the shocked audience. The dramatic music has begun and we see the view through the shark’s eyes. The audience sees the legs of other people. The music gets faster and faster and much more dramatic, from this point the audience knows what the shark is after. The shark focuses on Alex who is still on the raft. The attack comes suddenly, we see it from a distance and after this, a man on the beach says ‘did you see that? ’ Following the attack as anyone would, everyone panics.
Police Chief Brody jumps up from his tense sitting position and shouts for everybody to get out of the water. This was what Police Chief Brody was worried about. The boy, Alex is a lost cause can do nothing but scream, splash and attempt to believe he can escape from the sharks clutches. Alex is dragged down violently as he tries to gasp for breath; he is finally dragged and lost to the depths of the dark sea. The camera shot is really close up to the boy as he is fighting for his life; we see his pain, his struggle and his death.
Everyone on the beach couldn’t miss the raft in the distance flip over and the blood spill into the sea. Though audience might have had to do a double take, because if you look carefully the camera does show the shark, the shark is the one that flipped over the raft. After everybody’s out of the water it is silent like the previous attack not necessarily calm but perhaps subdued shock. There is lots of clever camera techniques used in the second attack scene, which are used to create tension and fear.
Close ups of Police Chief Brody looking intensely into the sea, views of the sea and the underwater camera shot where we view through the sharks eyes are all clever camera techniques which create tension and fear. The camera shots also pay close attention to detail. For example, when the man with the dog throws a stick for his dog to fetch into the sea, the camera shot focuses on the stick that had been thrown into the sea for the dog to fetch. But the stick is there floating in the calm water, with no sign of the dog. We didn’t see the dog disappear, so where could the dog have gone?
This suggests that the shark has taken the dog. The audience will have suddenly realized the hint that the shark could be in the water. Spielberg uses humour to disguise what is actually going to happen. There are at least 3 uses of this throughout the scene. An example of this would be when Police Chief Brody sees a black object gliding through the water towards the women – who is floating on her back in the sea – but it turns out to be a old man in a black swimming hat. When Brody saw that it was just an old man, you see the relief on his face but still he has a tensed, creased face.
When the audience is showed how Brody is feeling, the camera shot cuts to a close up of his face. His face shows everything the audience needs to sea. We also get a lot of point of view shots from Brody as he scans the sea for the shark or anything suspicious. Spielberg makes sure the camera shots play tricks with the audiences minds and lightens the atmosphere of the beach scene up completely, making the audience unaware of when the next shark attack. Everything is silent when Alex Kintner glides into the sea.
He paddles into the water where it is silent unlike the buzzing atmosphere on the beach with the radio playing in the background. Throughout the scene we see different regular happenings on a beach like a couple kissing and hugging in the sea, children building sandcastles, groups of adults chatting and families on holiday. The camera dives under the water, the music, which represents the presence of the shark, begins. We can see other children’s legs thorough the shark’s eyes. The camera shot then focuses on Alex on the yellow raft. The shark draws closer to the boy.
The music continues to get faster and faster and much more powerful and dramatic. As soon as we are extremely close up of Alex’s legs, we cut to the beach and see the raft being flipped and if you look carefully you can see a bit of the shark’s fin. Alex is being bitten in half. Blood is everywhere around the raft as Alex struggles. A man gets up after saying ‘ Did you see that? ’ Everyone else seemed to, except Alex Kintner’s mother. Seeing the blood for the first time in the film creates tension and scares the audience because it’s proof that the shark was there and Alex has been killed.
No matter how abrupt or quietly it happened, it shocked everyone. Ellen Brody and Police Chief Brody are together and Spielberg uses simultaneous track and zoom on Brody to show his reaction and expression to the shark attack. Brody’s face expresses pure horror and realization of what had just happened. Everybody is up and terrified except for Mrs Kintner who is reading her book. The camera shot leaves the beach and the audience are taken underwater again, where Alex is drowning, we here yelp’s but the shark is too strong and vicious.
The shark pulls him down, arms trailing above him trying to get to the surface. Blood covers Alex and the camera cuts the audience back to the beach. The children see the blood in the water and shout ‘Shark! Shark! ’ they splash and scream trying to get it of the water. Their alarmed parents hurry to get their children out yelling, panicking. For a 30 second period it is complete chaos. In the background of all the noise there is dramatic music playing, it could be the radio still but I think it is a piece of music composed to go with the atmosphere of the panic of this scene.
When the raft is washed up bloodstained on the beach, torn and chewed the camera focuses on Mrs Kintner’s face, she has now realized something has been happening. I think uses camera techniques to trick the audiences mind and to help them understand how people are feeling is very clever. This I think is a very clever way to build tension or to scare the audience when not expected without special effects, which are sometimes unrealistic and are used today in popular blockbuster films. The shark is a mystery throughout the first half of the film because the audience doesn’t get to see it.
The shark mysteriously appears and after its attack it inexplicably disappears. The music used to represent the shark; the music is used ominously. As the shark approaches its prey the music became faster, louder and more dramatic, this builds tension and fear for the rest of the film. When the shark attacks, the director makes sure you don’t see too much. What the director does allow you to see is the blood and the effect of the attack. For example when the third attack occurs, we see a man in the boats leg bitten off – by the shark – floating to the bottom.
Another example would be when Quint is bitten half and blood comes out of his mouth. Blood shows the audience the damage a shark can do and also how painful it is. The shark ruins people lives, like the mother who lost her son because he died being attacked by the shark. The characters reactions in the film are mostly horror, dread especially when they see the shark. The character’s reactions are similar in different ways. Quint is scared but he doesn’t like to show it. When Matt Hooper goes underwater in a cage to inject poison into the shark, the shark comes and bashes the cage.
Matt’s practically eyes pop out of his head in horror. This shows that coming face to face with a great white shark is probably one of the scariest tasks ever. Almost everyone is guaranteed to be scared of the great white shark. Throughout the film not a lot is given away about the shark. For the first 3 attacks the audience is not shown the shark. The audience sees the fins on the third attack. This makes the audience fear what the shark actually looks like. When we do see the shark nearer to the end, all the tension built throughout the film comes to a final climax when the audience sees the shark for the first time.
It takes us by surprise because we’ve been expecting it throughout the whole of the film and finally the audience sees the shark in all its glory. The first two attacks are closer together, this is before the annual regatta, and this builds up the fear for the rest of the film because you know it’s going to be a busy public holiday at Amity Island. The audience are tense throughout the film and question us to think where does the shark come from and where does it disappear too? This big unanswered question adds suspense to the film and never, does it let the audience into its secret.
The third shark attack involves Brody’s son. The shark doesn’t hurt his son but it was close, the son saw the shark and that scares him a lot. The third attack is on the opening of the annual regatta on the 4th July. There is a lot more people about and no one is going in the water because of the signs being out up warning people about the shark. The mayor persuades someone he knows to go into the sea, so this would show there’s nothing to worry about. He and his family eventually do and everybody follows thinking there is nothing to be frightened about.
The audience sees the fin first in the distance of the third attack, which creates tension. The first sighting of the fin of the shark gets everybody panicking and everybody rushes out of the water screaming, as if it was a matter of life or death. It’s actually two young boys with a cardboard fin on their backs. This adds humour and will take the audiences mind off what is actually going to happen. Spielberg uses humour again to trick the audience’s minds. The third attack is after everybody’s out of the water from the scare. A girl sees the fins in the pond where Brody’s son and his friends are on a boat.
Brody thinks its just another false alarm but when his wife Ellen tells him that Michael their son is in the pond, Brody responds urgently and takes it seriously. He speeds up towards the pond; the music also speeds up, which adds tension to the scene. The shark comes up behind a man talking to a boy in a wooden rowing boat. The shark capsizes the boat and the man slips into the water. This brings fear because the man is in the water and so is the shark. We suddenly see the shark beneath the man trying to bite the man, the shark succeeds, we then see lots of blood and his bitten of leg, drop elegantly to the bottom of the pond.
The last section of the film takes place on a small boat out at sea where Brody, Quint and Matt Hooper are out to catch the shark. They’ve shot the shark and it’s got 2/3 yellow air filled barrels attached to its body, now they realise that the shark is too strong and it’s not making a difference with barrels or no barrels. The shark even manages to turn the boat and pull it around. This shows how strong the 25 foot great white shark is, this is tension because we didn’t know exactly what the shark was capable of apart from killing. I think that the 3 men underestimated it.
Matt goes down into the water in a shark cage to try and put poison into the shark so it will die instantly. It doesn’t go to plan as the shark ends up tearing the cage apart and then getting itself stuck in it. Matt escapes after dropping the injection when the shark first suddenly appeared. Quint and Brody believe him to be dead. The shark then attacks the boat. We see the shark’s head in detail for the first time. The head is quite menacing and I think its, many sharp razor like teeth are the reason why so many people dread coming face to face with a shark.
This is what scares the audience. Quint slides into the shark’s mouth when the boat sinks; this makes the audience gulp with fear and creates tension because you’ve figured out what’s going to happen. Quint is bitten in half and at the last moment blood shoots out of his mouth and the shark chews him up and returns to the water. The audience may believe that’s is over but the shark takes the audience by surprise by crashing through the window of the broken boat, to the horror of Brody who is now on his own on a sinking boat. The audience should be screaming at him from this point.
Knowing that he should kill the shark. Tension is in the air as Brody quickly remember what Quint and Matt told him about oxygen exploding. He throws a oxygen tank into the sharks mouth and the shark disappears under the water chewing the tank. To add tension, you will remember that Brody cannot swim and he’s scared of water. The boat is rapidly sinking and has a predictable ending to it. But Brody has a gun and shark stick. The shark returns to terrorize him, he stabs the shark with the end of the stick and then shoots at the oxygen tank again and again.
Finally one last shot he shoots the oxygen tank and it explodes in the sharks mouth. , The shark explodes into some very large, bloody pieces. The audience can breathe a sigh of relief, as the shark dies, no more tension and to add to the happiness, Matt Hooper is alive! They both return to shore happy men, on a raft. The audience will feel their happiness and relief. The scariest moment in the film, which took me by surprise, was when Matt and Brody went out on Matt’s boat in the middle of the night. They find a shipwrecked fishing boat.
Matt goes underwater to investigate and finds a shark tooth in a chewed hole in the side of the boat. He takes it away to look at then swims back to the gap and peers in. Suddenly a dead man with a fish eaten eye, head appears in the gap. This made me jump because it was the thing I least thought was going to happen. I thought the shark would, turn up and attack Matt Hooper or the shark’s eye would be seen peering through the hole. That would mean that Brody would have been alone, on a boat in the middle of the night.