February 10, 2016

Cutting Edges: Jaws Film Review

Jaws Film Review
Figure 1: Movie Poster
Jaws is a 1970 thriller film by Steven Spielberg, adapted from the book, also titled Jaws. It is a film about a great white shark which eats the civilians from the town of Amity, and a group of three men take on the mission to kill the shark.
The main plot to the film is simple, and the meaning does seem very straightforward and conscious. At first glance it’s a film which explores the very common fear of being eaten by a shark, a dangerous, mysterious creature we can’t see and the fear of the unknown. Exploiting this extremely common fear would surely be successful in creating a hit film, as we can all relate to it. But if you were to look further it could be argued that there are underlying themes of male sexuality and fear of castration, fear of women, and politics; no doubt due to the Watergate scandal at the time.
The argument that the shark is representative of male sexual psychopathy is largely supported by the opening scene, where a naked young woman is swimming in the ocean in the middle of the night, and the shark stares up at her from below and we can see the sharks point of view, obscured from her sight and oblivious to the danger that she is in. This camera shot is set up to make sure that you know she is the victim, it makes her seem very vulnerable that we are in a position to be watching, and be part of her death as we see from the sharks point of view.
Figure 2: Film Still
Male sexuality being threatened seems to also be an underlying theme. The film seems to explore the shark biting through men just below the waist, which could symbolise an extreme example of castration. Since we only see that happen to men, it is more likely to be a representation of a male’s fear of losing what makes him a man, not unlike Only God Forgives and Spielberg’s Duel, where the fear of not being enough of a man is always a present theme.
The score for this film is as almost known and celebrated as Hitchcock’s Psycho, if not more so. The main sound theme for the shark is very threatening and low, and we hear it even before the screen gives away any sense of danger visually. It gives a really horror vibe to the shark, and the shark becomes bigger than it actually is in our minds, metaphorically, as it becomes a symbol of the unknown, much like the truck in Spielberg’s Duel.
There are a lot of similarities between Spielberg’s two films, Jaws and Duel. Both explore the underlying themes of male sexuality and the fear of the lack of masculinity. Furthering the relation to the two films, the roar of the truck falling off the cliff in Duel is the same roar and thud of the shark’s carcass hitting the ocean floor in Jaws. “Spielberg has said that this is because he feels there is a "kinship" between Duel and Jaws, as they are both about "these leviathans targeting everyman." He has also said that inserting the sound effect into Jaws was "my way of thanking Duel for giving me a career."” (1)
Jaws knew how to keep audiences invested. While getting to know the human characters and seeing what makes them relatable, the audience salivates for another monster scene.” (Winkler, 2015)
Spielberg makes his films personal and audience engaging by getting involved with the characters through use of the camera. The camera shots are very personal, up close and intimate regularly so that we get a good understanding of what the character is thinking and feeling, and we get a sense of what that character is going through. A good example is a shot of one of the main characters on a beach and the camera zooms in on his face and zooms out the background at the same time, as he is realising that there may be another shark attack happening. The audience is overwhelmed in his sense of panic which is amplified by the camera effect.
Figure 3: Movie Still
 “With no superheroes or post-apocalyptic wastelands in sight, the skill behind Jaws becomes even more thrilling to watch unfold. ...” (Dunks, 2014)

In this quote Dunks talks about the fact that Jaws is a film about nothing out of the ordinary or unbelievable, and that is what makes it so popular. There is no fantasy, nothing but the mundane and an exploitation of everybody’s worst nightmare. The film is very relatable and human, which makes it easy to be immersed in, and makes it even more impressive that this film remains as one of the most recognisable and praised films.

Figure 1: I0.wp.com, (2016). [online] Available at: http://i0.wp.com/www.horrorhomeroom.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Jaws-4.jpg [Accessed 10 Feb. 2016].
Figure 2: T2.gstatic.com, (2016). [online] Available at: http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSNafDFWxZ3Mp_EEeYV3XXvqcCwArfq4QI8-s5NZbfD6i_bDLCn [Accessed 10 Feb. 2016].
Figure 3: I2.wp.com, (2016). [online] Available at: http://i2.wp.com/bitcast-a-sm.bitgravity.com/slashfilm/wp/wp-content/images/jaws-beach-scene.png [Accessed 10 Feb. 2016].
Ma, H. (2015). Spideroak, Whisper Systems, Silent Circle. Technical Services Quarterly, 32(2), pp.228-229.
Rottentomatoes.com, (2016). Jaws. [online] Available at: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/jaws/ [Accessed 10 Feb. 2016].
Rottentomatoes.com, (2016). Jon Winkler Movie Reviews & Previews - Rotten Tomatoes. [online] Available at: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/jon-winkler/ [Accessed 10 Feb. 2016].
(1) Wikipedia, (2016). Duel (1971 film). [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duel_(1971_film)#cite_note-autogenerated1-1 [Accessed 10 Feb. 2016].


  1. I enjoyed this review, Becky - nicely written, content-rich and engaging :)

  2. Good analysis Becky :)
    Just remember to italicise your quotes...