Jaws (1975)

There is nothing like rewatching a movie, especially a favorite movie. After my first viewing I watched it at least three times, but I’m afraid I was too concentrated on one actor (Roy Scheider) to focus on the events of the movie. A few weeks ago my friend and I decided to have a movie date and she mentioned she hadn’t seen Jaws yet but knew I loved the movie; so naturally that’s what we watched.

I’m pleased to say that she did enjoy the film and I myself found a whole new appreciate for it. I’m not quite sure of the overall criticism among film critics but for those who say it’s overrated I absolutely disagree. When my film teacher told the class that we were going to watch Jaws I was kind of biased. I remember thinking “Well it’s Spielberg and everyone loves him so he’s probably a bit overrated.” Well, I was proved myself wrong, at least for this picture.

I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the story. When Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) discovers that a shark was responsible for the death of a teenage girl, he tries to shut the beach down to prevent any further attacks. However the mayor of the town, Vaughn, persuades Brody against shutting down the beach. The beach does not shut down and sure enough there are two attacks that day. Soon Hooper, a shark specialist, comes to help Brody as well as the local shark catcher, Quint. That’s a very brief summary but if you’re interested for more of the plot I suppose wikipedia or IMDB would be the best place to look!

I’ve always thought that the first half of the picture is better than the second; it seems the first half brings so much and heightens the suspense and intensity so high that by the time the second half comes, it depreciates a little and doesn’t seem to carry that same degree of suspense and intensity. I’m not saying that there aren’t great moments or shots in the second half,  just that it doesn’t fully live up to what was expected.

But back to about noticing new things! I appreciated Spielberg’s before but even more so now; and the editing as well! For example, the scene at the beach after Brody tries to close it, Spielberg does a great job on giving equal shots of different people at the beach. We’re like Brody: on high alert something is going to happen but unable to say anything. However since we’re the viewer we’re shifting back and forth trying to see who will be the shark’s victim. I also love the shot where Vaughn is trying to talk to Brody but Brody isn’t paying attention. Vaughn is on the right, somewhat overbearing but there is a soft focus around his face, thus directing our attention to the swimmer on the left.

Attention focused on the swimmer to the left of Vaughn.

Continuing about the mayor, he was another person I paid more attention to. I’ve always viewed him as the “big bad villan” but in a few of the scenes, especially the conversation between Hooper and Brody, he looks very concerned yet still decides to keep the beach open.


I’m still not a fan of him or will I ever be but I now wonder if he did actually care for the people of his town.

Now for the second part of the film. I picked up on some things that I missed before, such as Brody’s glasses being knocked off, discovering the tanks, and how much of an outsider he was to Hooper and Quint. There is one specific part where I found the pacing and rhythm of a few shots very effective. Something on the boat starts to break and eventually snaps; this is done in three separate shots showing different pieces. It shows the knob then you hear a snap, another one, snap, another one, snap. It’s done in a sort quick “1-2-3” then completely snaps off.

Spielberg’s use of the Panavision is wonderful too! The shot that struck me the most was when Quint is on the edge of the boat trying to shoot the shark. It gives the shot of very great sense of depth and perhaps is a hint to the viewer that it is not going to be easy getting the shark.

The shark in the very upper left corner while Quint is on the bottom right.

The last point I’ll touch on is Quint’s USS Indianapolis speech. I wasn’t fond of Quint beforehand. He came off very conceited and proud, however this speech changed my opinion, and especially in this viewing. I remember being completely absorbed in his speech. It’s interesting for one (I never knew about the USS Indianapolis until this film) but it is also the way Quint tells it. He instantly lowers his voice, looks down more, and somewhat mumbles; it’s all very sincere and honest. As my friend pointed out it’s also very realistic. So I give Robert Shaw major points on that piece.

Of course the greatest moment is when Roy Scheider says, “Smile you son of a-” and then blows up the shark. While it is a very triumphant moment, my favorite is when Brody and Hooper are swimming back to shore; it’s just very sweet and you can feel their relief and happiness.

My opinion of Jaws hasn’t changed and I don’t think it will to be honest. There is so much in the directing that I admire (I didn’t even mention the shark’s point of view but I think that’s obvious :) ). Another thing to take into consideration was the shooting of this film. There were so many variables that affected the shooting: the weather, the lighting, the town they used, tension between cast members and crew, and, of course, the shark. In my opinion it could have been so easy to mess this movie up but Spielberg made it work very well.

So if you haven’t seen Jaws I highly recommend it!


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