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

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Oliver Miocic  

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Analyse the ways that the director builds suspense and scares the audience in the film ‘Jaws’

‘Jaws’ is the thrilling film directed Stephen Spielberg. It is about one mans quest to rid an island town of a killer shark. It is set on the public holiday of July fourth, in Amity, around the 1970’s. The island is fuelled by tourist money so this holiday is one of their busiest. The fourth of July marks Independence Day in the U.S.A yet the irony is, the people on the island are not independent due to the indiscriminate killing machine trapping them on the island. It is not only shear terror for the characters but for the audience too. Spielberg creates this suspense by using both camera and music very effectively.


The film starts with no visual just darkness. In the background we can hear aquatic sounds; waves, bubbles and sonar. We know sonar is used by sharks to detect their prey. This suggests that there is something suspicious going on, possibly with a shark. These sounds disappear and the theme tune, well-known sound of ‘Duh dum’start to build tempo and volume. If you think about it the ‘Duh dum’ sound mimics that of the one our heart makes and as the music picks up-tempo so does our heartbeat. As this tune starts so does the visual, it being the point of view of a shark swimming through seaweed.

The audience is led to assume that the shark is looking for something because the music gets louder every second until it reaches its crescendo. This is what makes the audience sit at the edge of their seats. The fast beat combined with the percussion and volume creates an atmosphere of suspense that something is coming to attack someone. The final three ‘shrieks’ is put in to scare us and mark the end. These ‘shrieks’ suggest what is to come.

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Another example of where music is used to build tension is when the man falls into the sea, after the jetty he was standing on, gets pulled out to sea by the shark. As he is swimming back to safety the music starts. As the music gets quicker and louder the man swims frantically for his life. The audience also feel frantic. This use music is so effective that we never see the shark we only hear the music. Silence can also be used to create suspense. This can be seen when Hooper goes into the shark cage in ...

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