Jaws Cinematography

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During the film Steve Spielberg uses music, a mysterious shark and camera techniques such as simultaneous track and zoom, long shot, close up shots and medium shots to build suspense, tension and scare the audience.

The music represents the shark, especially its movements and its presence. In the title sequence the camera is moving along the seabed like a shark. Spielberg makes the audience believe that the camera is viewing things through the shark’s eyes, he uses a camera shot called point of view shot. The music makes the shark seem a mystery because you haven’t yet seen the shark but you can feel its presence. The music clouds your vision and makes you imagine and believe something that actually isn’t even there. It builds tension and the music gives a dramatic and eerie effect. Other example of how music of silence is used to scare the audience or build tension will be discussed next.

The first scene, Chrissie strips to go swimming in the sea, the man from the same camp – where music is playing and the atmosphere is happy and relaxed – is chasing her towards the beach. The man is drunk and collapses; Chrissie has been in the sea already, for a long time on her own. The water is calm and you can here it lap against itself and brush up to the shore and a warning bell is heard that is used to warn ships and other obstacles. Suddenly the camera shot dips under the water, the dramatic music from the title sequence begins. The audience can see Chrissie swimming, as the music continues getting faster the sharks presence is made known to the audience. As the shark approaches her – her legs are dangling downwards under the water. Just as soon as we have a close up of Chrissie legs, the camera shot goes above the water watching Chrissie she looks around. Everything is silent, by surprise the shark suddenly pulls from below (the camera makes it believable). Chrissie starts screaming, there’s splashing, lots of tension as the shark underneath, supposedly biting her legs moves about Chrissie. There’s a close up of her face, Spielberg has a shown a close up to build tension and to show Chrissie’s agony. When Chrissie goes under for the final time, there is a ripple where she’d just disappeared; you can’t see any blood because it is dark. It’s strange because the sea is extremely still after such a vicious and terrifying shark attack, it’s as if nothing ever happened. I think Spielberg’s idea was to leave the audience bewildered. This frightens the audience because the shark attack was not expected it was camouflaged cleverly to draw the audience away from the main plot of the scene.

Another example of this would be at the time of the second attack when a boy called Alex Kintner is brutally killed by the shark. On the beach there is a radio playing in the background, there’s chatter and the atmosphere is relaxed but we know chief Police Martin is tense as he watches out to sea because he has the knowledge of what could happen and the camera shot shows it. A close up draws us to his creased and tense face and his eyes show he is scared. This puts the audience on the look out for anything suspicious. When Alex glides into the water on his yellow raft, it is silent. As the camera cuts back to focusing on the beach, the radio is heard again in the background. All the children rush into the sea screaming, laughing and splashing. This is a good cover, and the audience may start to relax but there’s still that fear, of maybe something happening. The camera shows Alex on the raft going further out into the water so not to get caught in the crowd with all the splashing. The camera suddenly dives under water and the shark’s presence is made known to the shocked audience. The dramatic music has begun and we see the view through the shark’s eyes. The audience sees the legs of other people. The music gets faster and faster and much more dramatic, from this point the audience knows what the shark is after. The shark focuses on Alex who is...
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