Tuesday, November 12, 2019

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

After the horrifying release of Steven Spielberg's classic ‘Jaws', the word has since then been associated with the monstrous killer in the ocean, the 20 foot great white, teeth covered in the flesh of an unsuspecting victim, swimming in a pool of blood. Steven Spielberg uses a variety of tricks and techniques to build suspense. Different camera angles, zooms, music and many other ways are used by Spielberg to create the tense atmosphere that is Jaws. These tricks and techniques all helped steady the bricks of Spielberg's masterpiece. Without these techniques, the impact that Jaws had imprinted upon the audience would not have been present. These tricks and techniques will be critically analysed to see how they had been used so efficiently to create an unwavering tower of suspense and drama. Jaws is set in the beautiful tranquil island of Amity. The air is calm and peaceful. Kids can be seen in the distant, splashing up and down in the deep blue ocean. You can see the tension relax as people lie in the hot summer sand, eyes drifting into their own world. Amity Island: the perfect holiday. However, the serene atmosphere is twisted apart when the ‘jaws' of a Great White appears. After the merciless deaths of four people, our protagonist, Chief Brody, must take action to stop the murderous beast from feeding once more upon the people of amity. Teamed with the marine biologist Matt Hooper and the crazed fisherman, Quint, they must set off to hunt down the Great White. Jaws is set on Independence Day, a national American holiday on the 4th of July. This was the day that the US formally adopted the Declaration of Independence from the UK. This would make the perfect scenario for Jaws. Teamed with the hot summer weather typical of July and the bustling holiday, the beach created the perfect scene for a Great White shark to attack. People would gather at the beach, the mood would be joyful. One Great White shark and the chaos that would form would be uncontrollable Music plays an important role in Jaws. Without the music, the suspense would all break down. Steven Spielberg uses music in a special way. He links a certain piece of music to the shark, which essentially becomes the sharks theme. Whenever this theme is played, the audience's first thoughts would be of the shark. The audience is in constant caution of the shark's presence, not knowing when or if it actually will attack. This not only creates suspense, but also creates the fear of knowing that the shark is most likely present. However, with this, Spielberg can also create false alarms. Due to the fact that the music is affiliated to the shark, the music can be used to create the illusion of an attack when there is nothing. This creates doubts in the audience's mind, who were sure that there would have been an attack. This also creates tension because of the fact that Spielberg can then surprise the audience with an actual shark attack. The main theme is also really simple; just two notes, forming something similar to a ‘duh dah' sound. With this simple rhythm, Spielberg can increase the speed of the two notes creating a faster sense of suspense and danger. Spielberg makes the notes fade into the scene as a ‘non-diegetic' sound. This means that the sound is present outside of the scene, only detectable by the audience and not the characters. Because it is non diegetic, only the audience will hear the theme, thus making them more nervous/tensed due to the fact that the characters remain clueless of the fate that may await them. The music starts of slow. It speeds up as the action gets more intense and it halts suddenly. The audience will have no idea what is going to happen. At this stage, Spielberg does two things. Create a false alarm, and nothing happens or he makes an attack. The audience will not know whether it will be an attack or a feint, which is why the music is so effective. What is also effective is the lack of music. Or any sounds at all. This creates a sense of emptiness. The lack of any non-diegetic sounds mixed with diegetic sounds such as the screaming of a victim creates a sense of fear. We hear it not as an audience, but from the ears of the victim, which is what scares us the most. Diegetic sounds are also used by Spielberg. Diegetic sounds are sounds outside the scene. These could include many things such as the waves crashing, the chatter of the characters or the music playing in the scene such as an instrument or radio. With this, we can feel the emotions/feelings of the character in more depth, because we are hearing what they hear, not something created outside the scene. But what may also be effective are camera techniques. These can be camera shots that are moving, still, from a certain angle or even from the perspective of someone/thing in the scene. Camera techniques are used most efficiently in an action scene, such as in the first attack with the young girl called Chrissy. This scene starts off with the camera focusing on the whole group of teenagers. We can hear the Diegetic sounds such as guitars, the waves and even the crackling of the fire. The young girl, Chrissy, and a young boy move away from the scene. The camera follows them. Soon, they arrive at the oceans end. The camera isn't clear and the scene is dark. This creates a relaxed but mysterious atmosphere. The young girl goes into the ocean as the boy is getting ready to go in. The camera then focuses on the young girl in the ocean. As we see her swimming, suddenly, a certain theme appears causing tension. This theme is the theme that symbolizes the shark. It starts off lightly, as the girl is still swimming, unwary of any dangers. Soon, the music becomes faster and louder. The camera angle then changes. It appears under the water. We see the view from the camera from under the water to above, as if it were from the perspective of something. Soon, the audience realizes that there is something in the water, which is the shark. We see from the shark's POV as it gets closer to the young girl, the tempo of the music gets louder and faster. And soon, the shark is near attacking distance of the girl. Suddenly, the camera goes above water and points at the lone girl, swimming. All non-diegetic sounds stop, as we hear only the waves and the girl. And then, all of a sudden, we see the girl pulled down. We hear just the screams, which causes a greater sense of fear. The girl struggles, only to show and flatter the strength of the shark. The girl is then pulled under the water and all of a sudden, the screams disappear. All we can hear are the waves. The camera then becomes still, pointing at the distance in the ocean. All is silent apart from the waves. All this is to emphasize what had just happened, as all we can think about is the scene that had just occurred, as the camera movement is still, pointing to ‘nothingness'; just the plain ocean. The sun then rises, symbolizing the time passing. What we need to realize is not once was the attacker, the shark, shown in clear view. All we saw was the view from the eyes of the shark, and the view of the young girl being attacked from something cloaked by the ocean. This is to create more fear in the shark and create more tension. The second attack is against a young child called Alex. In this scene, we are at a lively beach. There is a happy atmosphere. We can hear children playing, water splashing, waves crashing. It's a fast pace. However, we know something is going to go wrong. We see chief Brody on the beach. His worried face and constant suspicions create fear and tension in our minds, thinking about the shark. Chief Brody's fear deeply contrasts with the whole beach's excitement, creating unwariness in the scene, due to the main focus being on Brody and the outside focus being on the beach. Brody, being on the constant lookout, is being cautious of every single detail, causing great exaggeration in small details. This creates suspense, as we don't know what will happen due to all the false alarms that go on in this scene. We see a wide shot on all of the people in the ocean. Chief Brody is paranoid, causing the smallest things to seem as if they have a large effect. The first example of this is the girl screaming. This scream causes the audience to become paranoid due to the contrast in Brody and the atmosphere. Brody is distracted, causing him to become more anxious to see what was going on. However, the scream was meaningless, which was the first false alarm. The second false alarm was the old man and woman. The old man swam underneath the water and slowly rose, causing Chief Brody to think it was a shark, only to be relieved and slightly frustrated at the fact that it was just a person. This all creates a sense of unpreparedness to the actual attack due to the false alarms. The false alarms create a feeling of reassurance. Chief Brody's wife starts to relax him, allowing him to ease his paranoia of the shark. Then suddenly, the atmosphere changes. The familiar music plays. The disappearance of a dog into the water highly implies that something is there. The audience is now aware of something being there, however, Brody is unfocused and the whole beach has now idea what was going to happen. And all of a sudden, as the theme gradually becomes louder and faster, the camera shot goes underneath. The POV is now from the sharks. We see several vulnerable children from under the ocean, their legs sticking out. However, the shark goes closer and closer to a single person. As the shark goes closer, the music speeds up and tension rises. And soon, the shark attacks. The people on the beach have no idea what's going on, and the sudden atmosphere change causes a chaos. Brody notices too late. Soon, everyone evacuates, however, one person is still searching desperately for someone. As the scene ends, a young boy's life jacket appears on the shore and the camera focuses on it completely, torn and slightly covered in red. The audience realizes that whoever owned that jacket was the victim. The shark is the main object of fear in Jaws. It appears out of nowhere, shocking the audience. The fact that it doesn't show the shark directly creates uneasiness and a feeling of defencelessness. It makes it seem menacing that it attacks, creeping through where no one can see it. The unusual size and the intimidating pictures that are shown to study the shark creates a scary image, due to the fact that the actual shark itself isn't shown until later. And the music, it creates a sort of stealth for the shark. If the music is on, the shark is assumed to be there. If the music is not on, the shark is not assumed to be there. The false alarms were all created for one purpose, the real attack. The false alarms led to the audience easing up, but then to be surprised by the actual attack. Near the end of the film, the jetty used to capture the shark is small and unstable. Compared to the shark, it is miniscule. The phrase ‘we're going to need a bigger boat' said by Brody shows that it's in vulnerable to the shark's giant size. It isn't sufficient enough. The feeling of breaking down and falling into the ocean, where you are practically food for the shark creates suspense. It could break down any time. Overall, Jaws was an excellent film and the techniques by Steven Spielberg completed it. The scariest parts were no doubt, the unpredictable shock. They came out of nowhere and broke apart the suspense with no warning. The film was a big success and appealed to me greatly.

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