|Fig. 1 'Jaws' (1975)|
One of the many reasons why this film was such a success is because of how it plays with the feeling of fear, something that every human being can relate to. It is difficult to imagine that someone wouldn't be horrified if an abnormally large shark with black dead eyes was circling them from beneath. Spielberg uses very few shots of the actual shark, most of it is implied through the use of P.O.V. shots, objects (such as the yellow barrels), or the iconic score that symbolizes the creature.
|Fig. 2 The Yellow Barrels|
However, if Spielberg failed to present us with likable, relatable characters then 'Jaws' may have been a very different type of film. Instead of feeling fearing for Brody (Roy Scheider), Quint (Robert Shaw), and Hooper's (Richard Dreyfuss) lives, we might be inclined to root for the shark to succeed at ruining Amity's tourist business. However, we care for the characters as we know Brody is attempting to save lives by closing the beaches while the selfish mayor, Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) is more interested in making money. Of course, once the shark affects Larry's own family he tries to think of ways to convince himself he was doing 'what he thought was best'. He then finally agrees to hire Quint to kill the shark with the help of Brody and Hooper.
Both Quint and Hooper are also very charming characters in their own ways. Hooper is an intelligent young man with a genuine interest in marine biology and ends up doing all he can to warn the mayor and the citizens of Amity the dangers the shark presents. It is as frustrating for the audience as it is for Hooper when all of his warnings and expert advice go ignored. Hooper also seems to desperately try to get respect from Quint, a harsh, experienced shark hunter. Quint is a very stern and serious character but also has a more humorous side which can be seen as he sings drunkenly and compares scars with Hooper.
|Fig. 3 Scars|
This appears to be a recurring theme with this film. Both the story and its characters are simple but there is obviously much more beneath the surface. "There are no doubt supposed to be all sorts of levels of meanings... but Spielberg wisely decides not to underline any of them. This is an action film content to stay entirely within the perimeters of its story, and none of the characters have to wade through speeches expounding on the significance of it all. Spielberg is very good, though, at presenting those characters in a way that makes them individuals," (Ebert, 1975).
To this day people continue to contemplate the real 'meaning' behind this film, for example some may say that the shark represents misogyny and violence towards women while others debate it represents the fear men have regarding castration. Some may see it as a film about how sometimes money and business is regarded more important than human lives. Either way, it feels very unlikely that there isn't some deep hidden meaning within 'Jaws', perhaps Spielberg even meant to have it symbolize multiple things. Whichever it may be, 'Jaws', despite its nightmarish filming process and cryptic meaning, managed to become the first summer blockbuster and remain a classic 40 years later.
Chilton, M. (2015) Jaws, Review: 'Brilliant and Terrifying' At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/jaws/review/ Accessed on: 9/2/2016
Ebert, R. (1975) Jaws At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/jaws-1975 Accessed on: 9/2/2016
Haflidason, A. (2001) Jaws At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/07/14/jaws_review.shtml Accessed on: 9/2/2016
Thomas, W. (2012) Jaws Review At: http://www.empireonline.com/movies/jaws/review/ Accessed on: 9/2/2016
Figure 1. Jaws [Poster] At: http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/11/119238/3658491-2793285307-zbmry.jpg Accessed on: 9/2/2016
Figure 2. The Yellow Barrels [Film Still] At: http://movie-screencaps.com/jaws-1975/70/ Accessed on 9/2/2016
Figure 3. Scars [Film Still] At: http://movie-screencaps.com/jaws-1975/58/ Accessed on: 9/2/2016