Wednesday, 10 February 2016

CUTTING EDGES 6: 'Jaws' (1975)

Fig.1. 'Jaws' (1975) Poster

Steven Spielberg's 'Jaws' (1975) is a god within the world of movies. It's exciting story and wonderful use of practical effects has stood the test of time and has captivated audiences through the years. His use of innovative camera work and a soundtrack that heightens the tension from start to finish, Spielberg created a world unlike anything else ever seen upon the silver screen, the original Hollywood blockbuster.

Fig.2. Film Still

There have been many articles over the years that have given their opinion on the role of the shark within the film, it has been used as a metaphor to portray various things, but in this review masculinity is the topic. 'Remember how the film begins" a young woman asks a young man at a bonfire to go swimming  with her. He is too intoxicated to make it off the beach; the shark attacks her and she disappears. (Patt, 2015) This helplessness can be seen from the first act right up until the last. The first death of the film happens to be a woman, a woman named Chrissie who uses her powers of provocation to lure a helplessly drunk male from the beach and go from a swim with her. Chrissie is the ONLY female death during the two hours ten minutes running time. A death that brings out the masculinity within the film, the men of, Amity Island, must work together to destroy the beast that lurk beneath their waters terrorising their people. 'Jaws' also seems to reflect some of the issues within one of Spielberg's previous movies, 'Duel' (1971) a movie that tackles the problem's of the masculine man reduced to living within a laborious suburban era, but in this case it's Chief Brody's un settled self adjusting to life on the island, a big leap from the hustle and bustle of his previous home in New York City.

Fig.3. Film Still

Chief Martin Brody, played by Roy Scheider, is the chief police officer of Amity Island. Accompanied by his two new companions, Matt and Quint,  they  are terrorised by a shark that has threatened to (metaphorically) take away their masculinity and create mayhem within the waters of Amity Island.  The shark itself is rarely even seen, a predator of the sea, hidden beneath the waves of blood it leaves in it's path. 'The bomb is under the table but it does not explode: "That is suspense." Spielberg leaves the shark under the table for most of the movie. And many of its manifestations in the later part of the film are at second hand: We don't see the shark but the results of his actions.' (Ebert, 2000) Steven Spielberg adapted a technique used within many of Hitchcock's films, showing the audience what is to come, but not the character, in this case, the helpless victim(s) floating upon the surface of the water. This method of film making really builds the tension of the film, alongside a heart pounding soundtrack, composed by John Williams which has a tone of underlining, impending terror that bring's more power to the film than the sightings of the shark itself.

The topic of masculinity during 'Jaws' can arguably be seen as a measuring of manliness during it's final scenes. 'The movie's final forty-five minutes are spent aboard Quint's boat. The men bond over "war wounds," with Matt and Quint displaying various scars, then Quint tells a chilling tale about a World War II experience when he and the crew of a sunken ship were hunted and savaged by the sharks until the rescuers arrived.' (Berardinelli, 1975) This scene could be seen as a simple bonding session between the two, but in reality it is obvious that Quint wanted to prove himself to Matt. Sizing each other up as they show off their wounds, each getting bigger and coming with more of a story. If anyone was to be aboard Quint's vessel and dare to challenge his masculinity, he must win that battle. Unless it's the shark...

Overall, 'Jaws' is an action packed movie that leaves audiences on the edge of their seats. One thing that we can all take from this...always bring a bigger boat.


Berardinelli, J (1975) 'Jaws' At: Accessed On: 09/02/2016

Ebert, R (2000) 'Jaws' At: Accessed On: 09/02/2016

Patt, J (2015) 'I Think We Need a Bigger Metaphor: Men and Masculinity in 'Jaws' At: Accessed On: 09/02/2016


Figure 1. 'Jaws' [Film Poster] At: Accessed on: 09/02/2016

Figure 2. [Film Still] At: Accessed On: 09/02/2016

Figure 3. [Film Still] At: Accessed On" 09/02/2016

1 comment:

  1. Well thought-through review Tom :)
    '...a heart pounding soundtrack...which has a tone of underlining, impending terror that brings more power to the film than the sightings of the shark itself.' - well put.

    And yes, we should always have a bigger boat!