26 July 2010
Steven Spielberg’s thriller Jaws tells a story of a man who tries to regain his masculinity by killing a great white shark. Spielberg attacks the audience with techniques that create suspense and thrill. He begins the movie portraying Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) as a loving husband, a devoted father, and a police officer protecting his island, but when he is confronted with the shark attacks, his masculinity is in danger. Chief Brody watches a little boy get devoured in front of his eyes, unable to do anything about it. As the shark attacks again, his son was almost taken despite the security of the national coast guard. In the second half of the film, Brody is taken out of his comfort zone and placed in a boat, even though he is afraid of water. On the boat, Orca, Brody tries to become the man, and reassert his masculinity by killing the shark. Brody has to overcome his insecurities of being an outsider, gaining authority in the town, overcome his fear of water, and eventually kill the shark, to gain back his masculinity.
Spielberg shows the powerlessness of Chief Brody from the beginning. When we first notice Brody, he is asking his wife “How come the sun didn’t shine like this [in New York]?” The audience can already tell that he’s not from around the island. The next shot shows one of his sons coming inside the house showing the mom his cut from the swings, even though the Chief requested him not to use to the swing set. Brody doesn’t have domestic control because his kids tend to listen to their mother more than they listen to their dad. This is further stressed in a later scene in the film when Brody tells his kids to get off the boat, and they didn’t listen to him, but when the mother tells them to get off, the kids immediately get off the boat. Brody’s lack of authority is shown from the beginning and, throughout the movie, he has to obtain that power. Brody’s lack of authority because he is not an islander is further emphasized with wide-angle shots. In the scene where Brody was getting on the boat to get to the kids swimming, the mayor and the coroner overrule his authority. In this scene, Brody is in a tight frame: on one side is the boat fence, and on the other side, the mayor. Brody being in a tight frame, shows how trapped he is between making the businesses happy or protecting the people. Even though Chief Brody is police chief, and he’s trying to close down the beaches to protect the islanders, his decision is rejected by the mayor, who wants to keep the beaches open to make money. The mayor implies to Brody is not yet an islander, so he cannot do whatever he wants. Brody wear dull brown colors to show the audience the dreariness in Brody’s life, while the mayor has a red tie and a red car to show that he has power in this island. This long take scene goes from a medium long shot, to a medium shot to a medium close shot, showing the loss of authority and the increase in the insecurity that Brody has just gained. Spielberg frequently places Brody in a tight frame and uses wide angle lenses to belittle his authority in the small town. Brody’s lack of power is further emphasized with the wide-angle scene of the town council meeting. Everything and everyone in this scene is in focus. Brody is in the background, while the council members are in the foreground. All the men in front of Brody seem bigger in proportion, which helps with his belittlement. When Brody tells them that he is going to close down the beaches, all the islanders become aggravated and discouraged, and the council members undermine his authority and say it applies only for twenty-four hours. Brody’s authority and power in the town as the chief of police is overtaken by the island business.
Brody’s insecurity due to him being an outsider is expanded in the beach scene. Brody is sitting on the sand looking at the people playing in the ocean, and his wife and her friends are...