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How does the director Steven Spielberg use filmic techniques to build suspense and tension for the audience in the film jaws?

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Introduction

How does the director Steven Spielberg use filmic techniques to build suspense and tension for the audience in the film jaws? Steven Spielberg is now recognised as one of Hollywood's leading directors; a filmmaker who expresses his identity over a body of films. However, when he directed Jaws in 1975 he didn't have the expansive film technology that he now carries. The film does, though, contain several important elements that would be eventually recognised as part of a Spielberg film. His work in creating suspense and tension is recognised by critics all over the world. The film was surrounded by hype; mainly due to the lack of order in financing the film after it ran over budget, but readers of Peter Benchley's novel JAWS were anticipating a blockbuster of their time. Whilst Spielberg stated that "the film was tacky but marvellous" it proved to be a benchmark in his passage into stardom, his use of tension techniques becoming a main element within a Spielberg film. The tagline "Don't go into the water" has been etched into cinema folklore and the "dur dur" theme tune can be heard in a variety of films, quite possibly making it one of the world's most renowned theme tunes. The title sequence is an important element in the film JAWS with the "dur dur" theme tune being introduced. The point of view shot (POV) along with the "dur dur" theme music creates a fear factor that is prominent throughout the film. The shark's power is amplified right from the beginning. The camera, or the shark, increases its speed in conjunction with the music increasing in tempo, demonstrating the incredible speed that the shark is capable of moving. This early signal alerts viewers to the alarming power the shark possesses. This implements a tension that is long spanned in the viewer's mindset. The film begins with a mid shot of a seemingly average teenage party with a strangely chilling diegetic harmonica. ...read more.

Middle

Spielberg even lets the camera linger (low angle) on his feet scrambling over the collapsed dock, knowing that we are waiting for the shark to leap up and snatch the man away. We don't see the shark in this scene adding to the psychological barrier being built up between the shark and viewers. This build up of tension has been cancelled out by the man getting away; we are being lulled into a false sense of security. In these first attacks, Spielberg has established the water as the dividing line between safety and danger. "Do not go into the water" is firmly etched into viewer's mindsets. When Hooper and Brody go out on Hooper's boat to investigate, Hooper gets into the water. The darkness is a suspense builder especially with a fairly timid flash light being the only source of light. As a POV shot of Hooper's movement edges closer to the boat, tension builds as an ostinato of music builds. Ben Gardner's head emerges from the hull of the boat in the music's climax, a high point of climatic tension in the film JAWS. Spielberg has used a variety of camera teqniques to build such tension in the film Jaws. Long/distant shots of boats show the vulnerability of a boat to the sea, creating a tension that there is no escape. Tracking shots in the 2nd attack are used to create suspense and mid shots in the scenes with Quint, Brody and Hooper allow the audience to examine the scale of human to shark and the strength the shark possesses. The 4th of July Regatta arrives, amid great controversy. Thousands of people arrive at the Amity dock, but the first thing Spielberg shows us in this scene is a souvenir stand selling shark jawbones. This is a tension that is built after we are shown that they are selling their worst fear as souvenirs. ...read more.

Conclusion

None diegetic sounds with a frantic feel add to the audiences feelings of suspense. This could possibly be the highest moment of tension within the film. In the final scene, there is already a remaining tension from Quint's death. The boat is sinking and Brody is alone. The music ostinato begins again and long shots of the shark build the tension as the shark moves towards the boat. Brody fuses Hooper's science with Quint's rifle and prepares to kill the shark. A long shot shows Brody climbing up the mast before preparing to shoot. The suspense is building and you know this is the climax. Mid shots that involve Brody with the gun and the shark's fin moving closer build tension as we prepare for the shark to get to Brody. The sound loudness and speed of ostinato grows as the shark gets closer, another suspense builder. A close up of Brody's face shows his concentration as one of his shots goes wide. The boat continues to sink, portrayed with more long shots. A POV shot shows the shark getting closer and when the oxygen tanks are thrown into the mouth of the shark, this is were we see the shark's mouth in full. The tension is at a climax in this scene and Spielberg allows the ostinato to reach its finale before Brody, in a close up, fires a gun shot that hits the oxygen tank. A long shot shows the volcano of blood and skin that erupt into the air. The tension is killed after a slow rise throughout the film. A close up of Brody shows his exhaustion and excitement, as audiences we are relieved. This is the product of a build of tension created by music and camera shots. Spielberg uses building ostinato and misdirecting "dur dur"s to build tension. The art of false alarms create suspense due to their misleading traits. The tension is also built through silence and not showing the shark, we are made to think. Spielberg has done a great job of creating a tension ridden masterpiece using camera and sound. ...read more.

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