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How the film Jaws creates tension

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Media Essay - Jaws. How does Steven Spielberg manipulate the audience to create tension? The phenomenal movie Jaws was based on a novel written by Peter Benchley, with the novel itself being inspired by past shark attacks in Jersey. In this movie, Steven Spielberg experiments with never seen before techniques, bringing a whole new meaning to horror and thriller movies. Using irony, motifs and of course music to trigger emotions, and address situations. As of this, Spielberg and his colleagues won 3 Oscars and secured top places in film charts; all of this at the mere age of 26. Today as we know it, Spielberg is one of the most successful directors ever to have lived, and still has a great power over Hollywood. The opening scene plays a key role in manipulating the audience, using many tactics & techniques. At first the screen is totally black, but with the infamous score by John Williams playing, and sounds of the ocean. As a modern audience we already know the iconic value of the music, and how it's related to the shark attacks. Therefore, the music isn't of much value to a contemporary audience; they only relate the music to shark attacks later on in the film. ...read more.


One of these false alarms is when we hear a scream coming from the sea whilst the camera is focused on Brody. This creates a lot of tension within the audience as we expect it to be another shark attack. We then see it was just a girl, messing about with her boyfriend in the sea, where as we were expecting to see a shark attack taking place. The sounds in this scene are diegetic, with the camera cutting in and out of conversations, as if you yourself are on the beach doing so. The conversations are often cut off quickly, showing the fact they are unnecessary to be heard of. The camera then cuts to the boy who we have already seen starts to look around, shouting for his dog that again we have seen the boy with. The audience will feel slightly concerned at this point by seeing the worried look on the boy's face, wondering where his dog is and what has happened to it. We sub-consciously feel that this dog has been attacked. Then the underwater filming comes on again with the oblique shots, along the famous music. ...read more.


Brody's face is overcome with panic; and the audience empathise with Brody as they feel they know him well now. After the attack on the man, the camera almost becomes the shark, and heads towards Brody's son Michael. We feel a sense of worry about Michael, but the camera swerves away at the last minute, as if the shark is deciding not to attack Michael in the end. When Michael is back onto the beach and away from harm, another interesting shot is used. The camera shoots Brody from a low angle, making him appear powerful and almost heroic, logically being called a low angle shot. Brody then looks out into the sea, and true to this heroic look, he appears to of decided to go and look for the shark. In conclusion, I feel that Steven Spielberg manipulates the audience to create tension very well, using many new techniques in different ways. There are different levels of tension throughout which makes it more interesting, and the tension gets to its highest point just before each attack. Since Jaws was made, many other film directors have used these techniques in other films to enrich their movie and to entertain the audience. After watching all of the film, the audience experiences many emotions as of the different levels of tension, and the different atmospheres created. ...read more.

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