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

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Shelley Morris

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

The film JAWS was directed by Steven Spielberg and is about the struggle of men trying to defeat a great threat in the shape of a shark. It is set in small town of Amity in 1974.This is a classic horror film structure imitating for example, Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ (1963). From normality comes fear.  The main part of the film is set on the 4th July, which is independence day, the significance of this is being that there would be a lot of people their and it is something to build up to. This could also signify the shark’s total independence, contrasting with the main characters who must depend upon each others expertise.  

In the opening scene and throughout the film, music is strongly connected to the shark. In the opening scene the music begins very quiet and slow this is to symbolise the calmness of the scene and is also used as a contrast to the later loud and upbeat rhythm. As the scene goes on the music changes dramatically from a quiet soft sound to a harsh, louder and faster type of music which help to increase tension and build suspense. This main music is what the film is well recognised for and received awards. In the opening scene the use of no music is just as important as the music. The eerie silence suggests that something sinister is going to happen. When the first attack is taking place for a long while there is silence and it is only when you have the shark’s point of view shot that the music starts. As the shark gets closer the music increases to create a dangerous atmosphere and to develop the tension. During the attack the music is often overpowered by the girls screaming but once the attack has ended the only sound that can be heard is the sea which is used to show the return to normality.  Music is used throughout the film effectively and is often used a lot during an attack. In the 4th July attack the music playing on the radio behind is an uplifting and enjoyable music which gives the audience a false sense of security and also acts as a contrast to the sharks theme.

During the second attack camera angles are used to build tension and are also used to help the audience create and emotional attachment with the victims. While the boy is walking up the beach to his mother the use a mid shot which is to show that he is the next victim, you also see that he is wearing a red swimming costume which is to symbolise danger. Such colour symbolism is used throughout the film as emotional pointers. As the boy asks his mother if he can stay in for another ten minutes an extreme close up is used showing that these ten minutes are going to be significant; and it is also the use of dramatic irony as the ten minutes are going to be his last. As Brody is watching the water a point of view shot is used. It is used very well to show his anxiety and also his commitment to his job. Spielberg effectively uses every scene to further develop character, as here, or to advance the story.

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Also during this scene there are quite a few close up shots this is also to show enhancing his anxiety and feelings of hopelessness.

After this we have a release in the tension as they use a track shot to follow the man as his dog and to show the normal activity, but even in this scene the use of colour is important as the dog is black which signifies death and that he is another victim. A further track shot is used as the boy and the dog run into the water this focusing our attention onto the ...

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