How Does the Director Try to Build Suspense and Scare the Audience in the Film Jaws?

Topics: Steven Spielberg, Jaws, Attack Pages: 6 (2604 words) Published: February 14, 2013
How does the director try to build suspense and scare the audience in the film Jaws?

The film Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg, was created approximately 30 years ago. It tells the story of a shark which attacks and kills numerous people off the north-east coast of the USA in a small holiday resort called Amity Island. The attacks took place around the 4th of July, which in America, is similar to the British bank holiday. During this time, many Americans and tourists from abroad visit resorts such as Amity Island for a summer vacation. The director of the film, Steven Spielberg builds up fear of the shark using many different techniques. One of these techniques is the use of music. Spielberg uses a non-diegetic piece of music which plays whenever the shark is about to attack, almost like the shark’s very own theme tune. A non-diegetic sound is one which can only be heard by the audience and not by any of the characters in the film. Spielberg uses this particular technique just before the shark attacks Alex, the young boy who is swimming on his lilo. This technique makes the audience fear the shark, as whenever it’s played we expect another gruesome attack which adds a lot of tension to the film. Another technique used to increase our fear of the shark is showing the tremendous damage that it can cause. For example, towards the end of the film, whilst Brody, Hooper and Quint are out at sea attempting to catch the shark, it attacks their boat, resulting in the boat eventually sinking. Spielberg uses this method to give the audience the impression of the shark’s power and to suggest to them that the shark is indestructible, and that it will continue to kill innocent victims. A third technique with which Spielberg builds fear of the shark is the way in which he uses camera angles to show the sheer horror on the characters faces as they witness the attacks unfolding. For example, when Alex, the young boy is attacked, Spielberg uses a zoom, showing a close up of Brody’s face which is overwhelmed by horror and huge panic. By using this technique, Spielberg really gets the point across, from the characters’ perspective, of how terrifying the whole situation really is, which builds even more fear and tension for the audience. The choice and use of the music in the film Jaws also adds to the overall fear and tension experienced by the audience. For example, the music which is played just before the attack was chosen by Spielberg as it can be linked with the shark itself: the music starts quietly with a slow tempo as the shark swims around peacefully. Then, as the shark identifies its prey, the music begins to get both faster and louder. Then it begins to swim faster and close in on its victim, and as this happens, the music is gradually getting faster and louder. Then the shark bites, and the music explodes. Spielberg’s choice of music adds massively to the overall fear and tension in the film, because as soon as the music begins playing, the audience knows that an attack is imminent, they just sit there waiting anxiously. Then, the music explodes, coinciding with the attack, giving the audience a shock. Another way in which Spielberg uses the soundtrack to build tension and fear in the film is through contrasts of emotion. For example, at the start of the film before any of the attacks, a piece of diegetic music is played. This music creates a relaxed atmosphere so when the audience witness the first attack, it seems to come from nowhere, catching them by surprise. Another example of this is after the first attack on Chrissie, there is silence, and all that the audience can hear is the quiet ripple of the waves as they reach the shore. This makes the audience feel that everything is peaceful and calm, when in fact; they’ve just witnessed a terrifying shark attack. Another technique to provoke contrasting emotions is that of the music used just after Alex is attacked and killed by the shark. As Alex is attacked, everyone on the...
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