Analyse the ways in which the director builds suspense and scares the audience in the film "JAWS"

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GCSE media coursework

Analyse the ways in which the director builds suspense and scares the audience in the film “JAWS”

A film director has to make the audience react in a certain way to the film. He can do this by music, lighting, colour etc. In most action-suspense films, the director has to make the music suspenseful, and keep the camera angles from different people’s points of view, and show how scared the characters are. The director must also be careful not to make the plot seem unrealistic.


“JAWS” is about a man-eating shark and the people of the island “Amity” (Amity means “friendship” in Latin, which means Spielberg could have wanted to create the island as one that is usually happy and friendly.) that the shark stays nearby. It is set in or around the year 1975 (which is when it was filmed) so it seems recent to the audience of that time. Steven Spielberg directed this movie. He wanted the audience to feel frightened about this film. This is an action-suspense film.

The opening scene of the film introduces the theme music; a low cello sound, slowly and quietly at first, then the pace, volume and pitch changes. The pace gets faster, volume gets louder, and pitch gets higher, introducing a French horn into the music. The low cello sounds make a link to the deep water, and the louder, higher, and faster the music gets, the closer it sounds like the shark is to attack. The camera shows the point of view of the shark, swimming through weeds. This creates tension for the audience and links with the music.

We see an attack scene and get introduced to Brody, who has recently been appointed as chief of the Isle of Amity.

In the beach scene, the two false alarms of the shark attack make the audiences tension raised, and then collapsed. The tension of Brody is shared with the audience. The boy’s shorts, that are red, are associated with what is about to happen: death, danger, and blood. The boy is mentioned by name at the beginning of the scene to significantly show that he is important for a later scene. The yellow colour of the lilo, the man’s t-shirt, and the mother’s hat are significant because it shows that they are victims of the shark attack. The yellow contrasts with the red, to show innocence. The small child singing feels eerie, and when we know that the dog has gone, and see the stick that the dog was carrying floating in the water, the audience definitely know that the shark is near, and before they give a second thought about it, the music starts, and the audience see the shark’s point of view again. We see the children’s legs underneath the water, and then we see the shark go in to attack. The camera gets closer and closer to the legs, until we think that they can’t get any closer, and then we see the attack in the distance. When Brody realises what happens, the camera goes on a track backwards, whilst also zooming into his face. This shot is a significant moment in the film and the camera emphasises the reaction of Brody. Everyone on the beach realises, and all react at the same time, except for the boy’s mother, who does not realise that someone is being attacked by a shark, let alone her own son. The audience feel sorry for her, as she does not realise what is happening, and when she finally does realise, it is too late, and when she is searching for him, the music has stopped so we know that the shark has finished his attack. We know that he has definitely gone when the lilo is washed up on the beach, with blood all over it.

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We have not yet seen the shark because the audience would be more scared of something they cannot see, than something they can see. The director has made it so people definitely know that it is a shark, through the use of music, the characters reactions to the shark, and the damage that has been done by the shark. The music is just as terrifying as the child singing; it is eerie. The characters reactions are shared with the audience, so the audience can feel as scared as that character. The damage that the shark causes is scary, because the ...

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