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Analyse the ways that the director builds suspense and scares in the film JAWS

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Introduction

Analyse the ways that the director builds suspense and scares in the film JAWS The film is called 'JAWS' and is successfully directed by Steven Spielberg. I will be analyzing how Spielberg builds up suspense and scares the audience throughout this film, considering how camera shots, music and characters' reactions help to build this effect. The film is purposely named 'JAWS' as it is about a supernatural predator that killed many people with his deadly jaws without prejudice and discrimination. 'JAWS' is a masterful, visceral and realistic science-fiction suspense, horror-disaster film tapping into the most primal of human fear. The film is set in 1975 on a fictional island called Amity in America; now known as Long Island which is more precisely in the state of New England. Ironically the movie is partially set on the American Independence Day. The director plays with this idea that the fourth of July is usually a day of celebration and enjoyment for the American nation but in this case a killing machine is there to make them prisoners of this island. Neither can they get out of this island as it is surrounded by sea nor can they enjoy themselves in the sea as if the shark was protecting what did not belong to them, the unexplored and impenetrable sea. The behaviour of the shark is without doubt directly related to the music creating suspense as well as fear. A good example of this is the title sequence. At the beginning the music is pianissimo, completely calm hiding the violent behaviour of the shark. We hear bubble sounds as if a creature is gliding in the sea barely making any noise frightening the fishes in its way although having no intention to eat them. The first sound we hear is a cello playing a minor key and only for a fraction of a second, but the creature does not accelerate or lose pace, just staying constant throughout this scene with astonishing calmness compared to the rhythm of the piece throughout which I personally think makes the beauty of it. ...read more.

Middle

It is a sign of evil, disaster and vice. By mistaking an old man for the shark, Spielberg proves to us that even if Brody sees the shark on time he is completely impuissant, thus adding to stress and strain in his eyes. Using a long shot the director creates a second false alarm. This false alarm is to keep the audience in fear and in suspense about Brody's enemy. A sunburnt man talks to Brody blocking his view adding to the tension more and more. Brody being the main character has the sympathy of the audience and Spielberg fully knows this. By knowing this the director uses a point of view shot so that firstly, we identify ourselves with him and we unintentionally want him to get the clearest view possible of the sea without trying a lot, to relieve some of his pain and somehow inform people to avoid the already inevitable attack. Brody's reflexes are slightly slowed down by this man who is both blocking his view and actions as well as our view as at this point Spielberg has switched around the long shot to a point of view shot just so that even more fear is added to our already heavy shoulders and fearful hearts. The moment we anticipate the shark's attack a crowd of boys rush into the water splashing and are only inviting their death. This low angle shot creates panic and fear and is the turning point in the sequence. After this the speeds of the shots get much longer to contrast with the calm situation on the beach. As these boys rush in, four jump cuts are used; two from low angles just to strengthen the idea of their imminent death at the hands of the shark which is attracted by their boisterous and jovial behaviour. At this critical point the shark arrival is heralded by music which makes the audience tense. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although throughout the film most scenes are packed with suspense and fear, one scene in my opinion stands out not only because of the music and characters reactions or the camera shots but because of the context it bears. This scene reveals the wreck of Ben Gardner's ship. The water is portrayed as hostile, unexplored, dangerous and simply sombre. In that scene fragments of woods and shattered glass are floating on the surface with a thick fog wrapping them together, shadows jumping in the background adding to this an eerie music and the director creates a superb atmosphere in which anything at any time can happen. Although everything is repulsive from this setting, Hooper still willingly enters it making nearly no noise as he enters, as if the sea engulfed him face to face with the enemy. When the diver finds the damaged hull, the audience pray with all their heart that the shark is not there. The camera directly switches to Hooper's point of view to add to the suspense. At this precise moment a pale colourless, chewed-like lifeless face appears from inside the hull. This creates both the most unexpected and scariest scene in the whole film. The character's reaction emphasis this, as Hooper loses control of his body and is taken away by fear. Steven Spielberg created a powerful and effective thriller based on a very primal fear. It is so realistic we consider ourselves to be a member of that community who live on Amity and are under the threat of deadly leviathan who kills without mercy and warning. The simple almost primitive tune builds fear and suspense and is always associated with the shark to create one entity. Silence is also fitted in the right places at the right moment. The unseen predator is the opposite force against which mankind has to struggle in one form or the other. Suspense, tension and fear are the integral parts of the movie who will continue to make entire generations afraid to go in the water. By Seif Zitouni ...read more.

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