Last Updated 12 Oct 2020

Tension in the Movie Jaws

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The film ‘Jaws’, was made in 1975 and is a thriller set on a small American town called Amityville. The film is about a man-eating great white shark that terrorises the seas of Amityville and it’s public who swim in it. Steven Spielberg directs this nail-biting thriller. ‘Jaws’ is set on the 4th of July, which is an American Independence day. This film will keep you on the edge of your seats. This essay will show how Spielberg creates tension and suspense throughout the film. One of the most famous techniques used in the film ‘Jaws’ was the music.At the start of the film the screen is dark and the music begins. The pitch is low and the tempo is slow, as the sequence goes on the tempo starts to speed up and the pitch gets higher. When the tempo of the music speeds up it is like the heartbeat of the shark, which is getting faster because the shark is getting excited about something. At the same time the audience get nervous about what the shark is preparing to do. This sequence is used throughout the film to make the audience aware that the shark is about to attack.

Before the first attack is about to happen there is a lot of chatter, firelight and mouth organs being played. This makes it a good contrast to the scary scene that is about to happen. When the girl runs off with the drunken boy the scene starts to get darker and quieter as they go further and further away from where all the people are. The girl runs into the water and the drunken boy lies down on the beach. The camera then points at the girl who is all alone in the water and there is no sound or light at all which makes the audience think that something bad is about to happen.

This is really helpful to build tension and to begin putting fear in the mind’s of the audience, through the contrasts in the setting and in the changes in the music. As well as the use of music in this film Spielberg similarly uses camera techniques to scare the audience. Before the second attack the camera shows a mid shot at the boy and the women who are close together which makes the audience think that the relationship between these two people is like mother and child. While Brody watches the sea Spielberg uses mid shots, medium close ups and close up shots to show that Brody is getting more anxious.

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Then there is a point of view shot which is shot under water were the audience can see everyone’s legs. This creates a sense of dramatic irony where the audience know that something is underneath their feet but the people in the water don’t. As the second attack starts Brody realises suddenly what is happening and the camera zooms into his face. The camera also starts to show lots of flashing images of people panicking and the boy being eaten. This scares the audience because they have just witnessed an innocent child being eaten.

This keeps the tension up in the film which makes the audience think that if it can kill an innocent child, how much further will it go. Another way Spielberg builds up tension is by how he portrays the shark. In the first attack he doesn’t show the shark; this makes the audience think and imagine what is lurking under the waters. He also shows how strong this shark is when in the first attack the creature attacks the girl and swings her from side to side and eventually pulls her into the water.

Also into the second attack the creature eats the little boy and rips his Lillo to shreds. Throughout the film Spielberg reveals the shark bit by bit. Spielberg also shows real shark footage (when he films the attack in the cage) to make it look real and scare the audience, the audience is eager to see the shark which is another reason why he filmed it using a real shark. On the last attack the shark jumps onto the boat, the audience find it amusing because throughout the film they’ve been getting scared of a model shark.

When the shark bites the girl you can from her face immediately that she is in pain she also shows this because she screams hysterically which makes the audience think what is happening to her. Spielberg avoids the shark at this point because it’s so early in the film and if he shows it at this stage then the audience will realise that it’s only a model shark and there would be no point watching the film.

Another reason why he didn’t show the shark at this stage is because he wouldn’t have caught the audience out at the nd. So instead he used the characters’ reaction to show the power and the strength of the shark. Finally the way the story progresses will add to the tension of the film. Spielberg films the first two attacks together so throughout the film the audience will except an attack at any time which will make them always feel tense. The 4th of July is an American Independence Day which is a public holiday for everyone. It is summer and all the people are at the seaside having a good time.

Spielberg chose this scene because there are more people in danger which leads to a dramatic affect. This attack also involves Brody’s son, which keeps the audience tense because we know who Brody’s son is. The more you know about a character the more the more tense you will feel about them when they are being attacked. For example the last section of the film when all the main characters are under attack in this scene, the fact that we know more about the characters makes every moment tense when the shark circles around them.

Overall, the most tense moment in the film is the scene when the shark is attacking the cage. This scene is particularly scary because Spielberg used a real shark to film this scene which looks bigger and scarier, and the way it bent the cage bars really showed how strong the shark is. This is what I think is the most tense scene and is the scene that made most of the audience tense. These are the most important techniques that Steven Spielberg used to build tension and suspense in the audience’s minds.

This essay was written by a fellow student. You can use it as an example when writing your own essay or use it as a source, but you need cite it.

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