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In April of 1975, Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital, fell. This triggered the end of the Vietnam War, the only real defeat in American military history. Two months later, the movie Jaws was released, and it was a smash hit, the first real blockbuster in the history of American cinema. The success of the film is of course related to the fact that it was based on a popular book, built suspense like few if any previous films had done, and of course was marketed and released on an unprecedented scale
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Jaws Essay Plan - Media Studies Scotland
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by Steven Spielberg
Jaws essay questions.
A common truism is that the book is always better than the movie they make from it. Both Peter Benchley’s book and Steve Spielberg’s film version were enormous commercial and critical successes. Explain why Jaws is not an example of “the book was better.”
In the novel, the conflict between man and beast that takes center stage when the trio that goes out hunting for the shark is complicated by dramatic tension of sexual complications between Brody and Hooper as a result of Hooper having an affair with the sheriff’s wife. The novel provides ample opportunity for Benchley to work this layer of conflict into the tension of the hunting trip, but the film loses absolutely nothing in terms of drama by completely jettisoning this subplot. In fact, without the intrusion of the personal conflict between Brody and Hooper, Spielberg’s direction can focus all the greater building the tension between the men and the shark.
Analyze how Jaws engages the theme of man against nature by showing that conflict from perspectives revealing man as both prey and predator.
The dramatic structure of the narrative path of Jaws constructs a parallel so that the second half of the film is a kind of mirror image of the first half. The first half of the story is all about how nature is capable of terrorizing an entire section of society and reveals that man is subject to becoming the prey of the unpredictably violent randomness of the natural world. The hunting expedition undertaken by Brody, Hooper and Quint that takes up most of the second half of the movie flips that dynamic so that the shark that was formerly the predator now becomes the prey.
Explain how Jaws combines the literary devices of irony and setting by making the 4th of July a prominent part of the plot.
The sequence showing how the mainlanders descend upon the island to celebrate the nation’s independence is filled with ironic commentary on how the 4th of July has devolved from a date for celebrating emancipation from oppression into just another big day for big and little businesses. The entire film is about nothing else than fighting off a relentless foreign invader to ensure freedom and liberty. Set against that metaphor is the more concrete concerns expressed by the town’s mayor about local businesses losing their vital summer revenue as the result of having to close the beaches. The irony of the struggle for survival against the shark set off against the commercial devaluation of the meaning of Independence Day is unmistakable.
Identify the villain in Jaws.
At first glance, the shark seems to be the requisite villain in the thriller that is Jaws . In reality, however, the shark exhibits none of the malicious intent that is normally associated with characters delineated as villains. The shark is a brute animal acting out of pure instinct; it needs to survive, therefore it eats whatever is at hand. In contrast, the Mayor of Amity Island puts townspeople and tourists at risk by refusing to close the beaches. In his zeal to put the commercial interests of local business (or, as the Mayor views them, voters) ahead of the safety of everyone else, the only character in the entire movie who even comes close to demonstrating the kind of malice associated with villains is the Mayor.
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro considered Jaws one of the best critiques of the American way of life Hollywood ever made. Explain why a communist revolutionary would view Jaws as successful Marxist propaganda.
The summer season means one thing for many people on Amity Island, including the Mayor: profits. They stand to gain the bulk of their yearly income from the enormous influx of tourists and mainlanders who pour onto the island by the boatload. The appearance of a menacing shark—and, more importantly, the appearance of a bearded liberal scientist who recognizes the hazard the shark poses—threatens to plug up all that potential profit enjoyed by happy voters if the access to the beach is closed as the scientist recommends. The Mayor will lose his power if he fails to get re-elected and Amity’s business owners won’t vote for him if he caves into liberal pressure to shut down the beach and plug up their income stream. And so the purely animalistic shark becomes less a threat to life and limb than an economic peril to be avoided through political influence. Those least likely to suffer loss of life sell their wares to an ignorant public unwittingly risking their safety for the purpose of making sure the Mayor gets re-elected. Little wonder that the world’s longest-serving communist leader viewed Jaws so positively.
Explore the effects of seeing the physical shark so infrequently on the film's emotional progress, cinematography, and ability to elicit fear.
It's no secret that Jaws ' ability to build tension and scare its audience so successfully comes from very rarely showing the thing they so fear. In fact, it serves multiple purposes: first, it heightens tension faster than it can release it. With so much consequence and so little culprit onscreen, the audience ends up chomping at the bit (excuse the pun) to see the beast that they've already formed an image of in their minds. From a cinematographic standpoint, it lead to the film's shots that feature the shark's point of view. Where showing an actual shark swimming in the water would have been very straightforward, showing only what the shark is seeing and playing John William's ominous score underneath yields the same result of telling the audience that the shark is present, while still not directly showing it to them, such that their minds continue to run wild with the possibilities of the beast's horrific true appearance and abilities.
Explore the characters of Hooper and Quint as they relate to one another.
Quint and Hooper act as foil characters for one another, locking horns continuously aboard the Orca. Quint is the old and old-fashioned islander, gruff, grizzled and dirty, while Hooper is the young, uptight rich boy with “city hands.” The two fight and mock each other constantly. At the same time, however, their differences often complement one another: Quint’s methods of attaching barrels to the shark work wonders for helping them track it, and Hooper’s cage and poison needle are an excellent potential way of killing it in the water. That both their actions had merit and aided in bringing down the shark serves the larger message that no man is an island in this story.
Discuss Brody's character development over the course of the film.
Chief Brody is new to town, afraid of water, and knows little about sharks. He wants to make a difference in Amity, but for much of the film, and indeed the majority of the hunt aboard the Orca, he seems entirely helpless, at the mercy of the shark’s almost taunting attacks or Quint and Hooper’s far superior maritime knowledge. His iconic line, “You’re going to need a bigger boat,” even separates him from Quint with the way he avoids using the pronoun “we” (the way people so often misquote it). The film’s climax therefore features the completion of a journey for him: the fact that the end of the shark battle features him alone, out on the water with nothing but a rifle and a prayer, demonstrates how he’s finally taken control of his ability to make a difference, faced his fears, and shed his helplessness for power and victory.
Explore the cinematographic elements of the beach scene that features Alex Kintner's death.
This scene is a particularly well-crafted feature in Jaws . The majority of it takes place from Brody’s perspective, featuring views of the swimmers in the water strictly from the beach, which various people obscure by trying to talk to him. The passerby create natural wipes that transition from one cut to the next, showing first the swimmers, then Brody’s anxious face, then back to the swimmers again. Placing these interrupting people in the way of both our and Brody’s view of the water helps us to feel his frustration and nervousness.
The dog’s death in this scene is a particularly good example of how simply Spielberg can convey things without showing them. Up until he disappears, the dog is only featured playing fetch, and therefore he and the stick are a pair as far the viewer is concerned—where there is a stick, there should be a dog fetching the stick. But when we hear the dog’s owner calling out to him with no reply, and when we see the stick floating on its own, unretrieved, the pairing is severed, and we understand at once that the dog is gone without needing to see the shark actually kill it.
Discuss the influential role of John William's iconic theme music on the film. What effect does it have on both the story and the viewer?
It’s perhaps fitting that Jaws opens with what is arguably the most iconic theme music of any film in history: the eerie, suspenseful theme in which two alternating notes crescendo and quicken builds anticipation before there is even anything to fear. Composer John Williams has said that this ominous music was meant to represent the shark as an "unstoppable force" of "mindless and instinctive attacks.” The music is not only a great emotional manipulator in its ability to elicit terror from an unsuspecting audience, but also an amazing symbol for the shark itself, who appears physically so infrequently and is often represented by the resumption of the music only. Indeed, not once during the attack on Chrissie do we actually see any piece of the shark, and yet the combination of her terrified thrashing and the unsettling music is enough to convey the attack without any appearance by the attacker. Her death teaches the audience from the get-go that the suspenseful music will unequivocally mean “shark” for the rest of the film, regardless any other indication of its presence.
Jaws Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Jaws is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Title of Book
From the screenplay:
A riffly blur, color alternating with black and white. The dizziness stops on a book page showing a black and white rendering of eight species of shark. The banner at the top of the page reads: THE KNOWN AND REPUTED MANEATERS....
I think that this was the tag line for the movie version of the book. It says so much with so little. The line implies that there is something very dangerous in the water that can strike just when we think it is safe to enter the water. It implies...
I think the suspense comes when the reader is told what a wonder the shark is. They are in many respects superior to man. This builds up the mystique of the shark which adds suspense when we actually encounter them in the book.
Study Guide for Jaws
Jaws study guide contains a biography of director Steven Spielberg, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
- Jaws Summary
- Character List
- Director's Influence
Essays for Jaws
Jaws essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of the movie Jaws by director Steven Spielberg.
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- A Mass of Individuals: A Comparison of An Enemy of a People and Jaws
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Jaws Film Essay
Jaws - English Coursework.
By Leena Patel 10BW
The film is called ‘Jaws’; this is significant as it represents what the plot of the movie is, as the theme of the movie is about a shark killing people using his jaws (teeth). As well as this, the title shows the genre of the film is horror. Steven Spielberg directed this film, in 1975. The film was the first summer blockbuster and broke all box office records, it also made Steven Spielberg extremely famous and due to “Jaws”, he then later began to direct and produce further blockbusters. The movie is set in the small town of Amity (friendship), an island in New England. This is effective because when the shark attacks, it brings more tension to the audience, as the citizens of the town cannot escape, as the sea only surrounds the island. The location, Amity Island, where the movie is set is not real. It was actually filmed in Martha's Vineyard, on the East Coast of America.
Music and silence is often used to build tension, to scare the audience. Non-diegetic sound helps by creating extra tension or by setting a mood. For example, the dramatic, non-diegetic sound put over the top of the title sequence scene, helps to build tension, for the audience. This is because that music represents the shark, therefore, when the music comes on again during the movie, the audience would know the shark is coming. Diegetic sound helps, as it makes the film sound more realistic and it creates a less obvious tension. For instance: in the first attack, after Chrissie got pulled under the water, there was silence. Only the sound of the sea could be heard. This is effective because it makes the audience feel anxious, as they know Chrissie is dead and no one heard the attack. Parallel sound is another example of when tension is created. This occurs when; the radio is playing on the beach, before the second attack. This is efficient because is makes the audience feel safe, as the mood is jolly. It stops playing when the shark is about to attack. This then changes the mood of the audience and makes them suddenly frightened instead.
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Camera techniques are very useful as well. In the second attack at the beginning, there is a panning shot. It starts at a point and follows a fat woman to the sea and then the camera swings back like an arc, to the beach when a boy comes out of the sea. This quickly shows where the scene is set. It makes the audience feel safe as there are lots of people and it is a happy place. Afterwards, there are many false alarms. For instance, when Brody thinks the shark’s fin is getting closer towards the fat lady. However, it is actually a man wearing a black swimming cap. This makes the audience feel apprehensive and tension starts to build up. Also, when a girl starts screaming and the audience thinks she is being attacked. Although, she actually just lost her balance, whilst on the boy’s shoulders. When Brody thinks the girl is getting attacked, there is an over the shoulder scene, in the viewpoint of the chief. This makes the audience exist in the position of the chief. It also, makes the audience only see what he sees; therefore the concentration is of what is in the background, than what the other man if saying to him. Moreover, the colour yellow starts to build up fear. This is because in the movie, yellow is always shown just before an attack. For example, there is Alex’s mother who is wearing a yellow hat, the man with the dog is wearing a yellow T-shirt, Alex floats on a yellow li-lo and finally, the old man wipes his face, with a yellow towel, when he’s talking to Brody. Later in the movie, the audience realises; the yellow barrels are used to represent the shark. Near the end of the scene, a man is yelling out for his dog, Pippin and then there is a close up of the plank of wood, Pippin had in his mouth. This builds tension, as the audience knows, the shark killed the dog and that the shark is coming. Then suddenly, the scene and music changes. Now, the camera is under the sea and only the legs of the children can be seen. The audience is now in the viewpoint of the shark. This brings tension, as we never see the shark, until it is close to the end of the movie. Therefore, the audience doesn’t know how dreadful the shark looks. The music is building up faster and louder. The camera gets closer and closer to the legs, of Alex, on the inflatable li-lo. The audience is now very scared, as the shark is about to attack him. Next, there is a wide shot; so the audience can see the horrific attack, due to this, it makes the audience feel shocked and uneasy. Afterwards, there is a zoom shot, which merges into a close up of the chief and at the same time the background looks as if it’s being pulled back. This is effective, as it looks like it is happening really fast, therefore the audience can really focus on his emotional reaction and this makes the audience worried too. This shot was later known as the “Jaws shot”. Right at the end of the scene, his mother is shouting out his name and there is a close up of the ripped inflatable li-lo. This shows Alex is dead and it makes the audience feel sorry for him.
The director builds fear of the shark by music. When the shark gets closer to it is victim, the music gets faster and louder. This is effective, as it builds tension to the audience, by making them feel anxious. Also, showing all the dreadful damage it can do is effective too, like the time when the man got his leg pulled off, by the shark, in the third attack. This made the audience feel nauseous and disgusted. This also makes the audience feel upset and sympathetic towards the victim. Moreover, the director also builds fear through the characters reactions. This is because the audience; relates to what the characters feel and the audience reacts to the same emotions, as the characters.
Near the end of the movie, the tension and fear is built up, the most. The first two attacks are close together. This is because it sets what the plot of the movie is about. This builds tension for the audience because they are frightened and drawn into the movie; therefore the audience still wants to carry on watching. Then there is a slight gap, until the third attack. This is because the director doesn’t want to loose the interest of the plot. He also wants the audience still to be aware of the shark. This brings tension for the audience, as Brody’s son, Michael is involved. This makes the audience feel scared for his son, as the film focuses on Brody. Therefore, the audience relates to his character and does not want anything to happen to anyone relating to him.
The last scene of the movie brings the most fear and tension, to the audience. As there is only a small boat in the middle of the sea, it makes the audience feel frightened. This is because the characters are not near safety and they can not escape, from the shark. The audience can feel their fear. Also, when the yellow barrels unattached from the shark, the audience feels scared and tension builds up, as they do not know when the shark is about to attack again. Furthermore, later in the scene, Matt Hooper (shark specialist) goes under the sea in a cage, the music starts to build and there is a close up of the shark, when it attacks. This builds tension, as the audience is worried and scared that he might die. Right at the end of the scene, the shark attacks the boat and the boat starts sinking rapidly. This builds up the tension of the audience, as they are scared, as the audience thinks the characters are about to die.
In conclusion, I think the scariest moment, in the movie was defiantly the part when they find the fisherman, Quint’s boat. Matt Hooper goes under the water and suddenly finds only the head of the body. The reason why, this was so scary was because when he swims under the water, slow classical music starts playing to build up the tension. Then when the head pops-up, a faster high pitched, dramatic, non-diegetic sound is placed over the scene. This is effective because it scares the audience, as it happens instantly.
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay.
The writer demonstrates a thorough familiarity with the film and an excellent understanding of the effects used to create and maintain tension in the audience, and, in places, this is effectively reproduced in the writing style. However, the title does not indicate that the subject is limited to this aspect only and the essay is not a complete review. There is no character or plot analysis, for instance. Also, the essay has a good introduction but there is no proper conclusion. Poor grammatical construction is in evidence and there is frequent unnecessary repetition. Punctuation marks are scattered haphazardly. These patches of weak control detract from some otherwise very good writing and lower the overall grade that can be awarded. 3 stars.
- Word Count 1479
- Page Count 4
- Subject English
Film Review of "Jaws"
English Coursework on the film jaws
How the film Jaws creates tension
English Media - Review of the film Jaws
Jaws Critical Essay Plan
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Home — Essay Samples — Entertainment — Movies — Jaws
Essays on Jaws
A review of the horror movie jaws, conflict between an individual and majority in "enemy of the people" and "jaws", use of music and camera angles in the movie jaws to influence the audience, depiction of collective and individual ideologies in the films jaws and they live, feeling stressed about your essay.
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The phenomenal movie Jaws was based on a novel written by Peter Benchley, with the novel itself being inspired by past shark attacks in Jersey. In this movie, Steven Spielberg experiments with never seen before techniques, bringing a whole new meaning to horror and thriller movies. Using irony, motifs and of course music to trigger emotions, and address situations. As of this, Spielberg and his colleagues won 3 Oscars and secured top places in film charts; all of this at the mere age of 26.
Today as we know it, Spielberg is one of the most successful directors ever to have lived, and still has a great power over Hollywood. The opening scene plays a key role in manipulating the audience, using many tactics & techniques. At first the screen is totally black, but with the infamous score by John Williams playing, and sounds of the ocean. As a modern audience we already know the iconic value of the music, and how it’s related to the shark attacks.
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Therefore, the music isn’t of much value to a contemporary audience; they only relate the music to shark attacks later on in the film.
However, it does create tension. The black screen then fades into an oblique moving through the sea, accompanied with diegetic sounds. This is telling the audience it’s some kind of creature, creating tension. Switching from the slow & sombre music, it speeds up along with the pace of the oblique shot. The audience are now sub-consciously prepared for an attack or for the creature to be revealed, but the scene then cuts and changes.
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The scene changes to a panning shot of a campfire, surrounded by people. Contrast is created instantly; it’s a very relaxed scene with a “hippy” feel, compared to the underwater scene.
As the panning shot shows all the people in the scene, it stops on one person, a young man. Although it appears to be random, this effect causes a sub-conscious feeling in the audience, knowing that this young man is going to be involved with an attack. It shows the man looking at the girl, with their eyes meeting. The sea can also be seen in the background of the shot, showing some sort of connection. As they begin to run along the sand dunes towards the sea, it’s naturally dark and is constraining to see. This difficulty causes confusion amid fears of what’s going to happen.
As the girl is running into the water there is no longer any music, just diegetic sounds of the girl’s breath. The audience are now confident something is going to happen, as they already know there is something in the see which is ready to cause harm. It then again switches to an underwater oblique shot of the girl, as if we are seeing the girl through the creatures eyes. Although we have not seen the creature, we already get a feel that it’s a shark. This oblique shot goes closer and closer to the girl, as if the shark is going in to attack the girl, creating the uppermost tension.
The camera shot switches to the girl above the water, where you cannot see what’s going on underneath which addresses a wide-spread fear, of not being able to see what’s there. The first time the shark bites, she goes down underwater, as if she is being dragged under. The music also plays a prolonged, very high-pitched note, which automatically causes you to hold your breath during the attack with fear. To keep herself afloat, she is holding on to a buoy. This causes irony as they are there for help and for safety, yet it cannot help her.
It also symbolises how the buoy and the boy on the beach cannot help her. Whilst she is being attacked, the tide bell rings faster & faster which is telling you how the sea is getting choppier as of the attack. After the attack, a calm atmosphere is restored with dawn approaching, along with just the sound of the sea and the tide-bell slowly ringing, promoting the calm feeling of the sea. Even still, the audience still has not seen the shark, leaving it for their own imagination to determine how big the shark is, and what it looks like.
When the second attack takes place, even more new techniques are used. The scene begins by using a panning shot to follow a woman down into the sea and then follows the boy back up the beach, like you naturally would. The camera scans many people, leaving you to try and find out which person is going to be a victim of an attack. Brody is seen quite a lot in this scene, and one shot especially is used on Brody. In the shot we see him, and as one person walks past the camera concealing Brody it cuts to a closer scene of Brody, this is repeated twice, and ends up as a very close shot of Brody.
This gives you a feel that you as an audience are getting deeper and deeper into his mind, and you can see the despair and worry on his face clearly. You also see Brody just sat there staring out to the sea, trying to figure out what is going on, and it’s like he knows something is going to happen. In this scene, Spielberg has used a couple of false alarms making the audience sit on the end of their seats with fear. One of these false alarms is when we hear a scream coming from the sea whilst the camera is focused on Brody.
This creates a lot of tension within the audience as we expect it to be another shark attack. We then see it was just a girl, messing about with her boyfriend in the sea, where as we were expecting to see a shark attack taking place. The sounds in this scene are diegetic, with the camera cutting in and out of conversations, as if you yourself are on the beach doing so. The conversations are often cut off quickly, showing the fact they are unnecessary to be heard of. The camera then cuts to the boy who we have already seen starts to look around, shouting for his dog that again we have seen the boy with.
The audience will feel slightly concerned at this point by seeing the worried look on the boy’s face, wondering where his dog is and what has happened to it. We sub-consciously feel that this dog has been attacked. Then the underwater filming comes on again with the oblique shots, along the famous music. We realise that this time it’s not a false alarm, as of the oblique shot and the infamous music is played once again, like it was in the first attack. As of the oblique shot used again, the audience cannot see the shark still as the filming is through its eyes.
This still leaves the audience to guess what it looks like, creating fear. Again the shot is closing in on the boy on the lilo from underneath, as with the music is getting louder, creating panic once again for the audience. Whilst the attack is happening, Brody realises what is going on. At this moment, Spielberg is using a never used before shot. This contra-zoom shot zooms in on Brody, but meanwhile it zooms out on the background. This portrays that Brody is in such panic and fear of what is happening, that nothing else matters besides that attack.
Causing confusion in the scene, people everywhere are running and screaming, in a chaotic manner. Although the audience know that a shark attack has taken place, most people do not realise what is happening on the beach; they all just run out because everyone else is. When the lilo washes up on the shore in the blood soaked sea, all the people just stand and stare, in silence. One mother steps out of the line causing contrast, looking for her son. When she sees the lilo, she realises it’s her own son that has been killed, as does everyone else. Again the scene has a sense of calmness, silent except for the diegetic sounds of the sea.
This again causes contrast from the sheer horror that has just happened. In the third key scene, when the attack in the lake takes place, more techniques are again used by Spielberg to increase tension for the audience. It starts with a shot of the whole beach, accompanied with jolly music, which shows a happy and enjoyable environment. However, there is still a feeling of slight unease as everyone is reluctant to go into the sea. Even the Mayor notices this; as he approaches an elderly couple that he appears to know well, he pleads them to go into the sea, more of a demand infact.
Reluctant to disagree, they go into the sea although feeling unsure and not at ease. Soon, most of the people on the beach are getting into the sea. As others have seen the family going into the sea, other people feel a slight reassurance and go into the sea too. The beach seems of a rather calm and enjoyable atmosphere, with another establishing shot that shows so. We then see the boats out on the water, looking for the shark. We feel slight anticipation and danger; the characters are looking worried and anxious creating these feelings in the audience.
This then creates contrast, and slight tension. The audience then feel a sense of relief, when they think Brody and his son Michael have been removed from where they think the danger is; by taking the boat to the lake instead. They feel this relief because the audience have become attached to the characters almost, as they’ve got to know them throughout the film. Tension is built when underwater oblique shots are used again, which the audience now recognise as a sign of danger from previous attacks. Plus, there is also no music at this point; we just hear the diegetic sounds of the water splashing.
Spielberg then uses a sea-level camera shot from the sea; this makes the audience feel like something is watching the characters, as it goes around focusing on different people. Spielberg cleverly chooses to use another false alarm here. We see what appears to be a shark fin in the sea, as do the people on the beach. This causes fear and worry among the people, as it does among the audience. The camera also quickly shows different character, giving you a sense it’s showing you all the possible victims of another attack.
As of this apparent shark fin, everyone is running out of the sea and frantically collecting their families, causing confusion. The audience is then shown that it was a false alarm, and infact two boys messing around with a fake fin. The famous score of music starts once again, and the audience realise this could be another real attack from the use of the music. When Brody realises, and starts to run towards the lake, where his son is. Brody’s face is overcome with panic; and the audience empathise with Brody as they feel they know him well now.
After the attack on the man, the camera almost becomes the shark, and heads towards Brody’s son Michael. We feel a sense of worry about Michael, but the camera swerves away at the last minute, as if the shark is deciding not to attack Michael in the end. When Michael is back onto the beach and away from harm, another interesting shot is used. The camera shoots Brody from a low angle, making him appear powerful and almost heroic, logically being called a low angle shot. Brody then looks out into the sea, and true to this heroic look, he appears to of decided to go and look for the shark.
In conclusion, I feel that Steven Spielberg manipulates the audience to create tension very well, using many new techniques in different ways. There are different levels of tension throughout which makes it more interesting, and the tension gets to its highest point just before each attack. Since Jaws was made, many other film directors have used these techniques in other films to enrich their movie and to entertain the audience. After watching all of the film, the audience experiences many emotions as of the different levels of tension, and the different atmospheres created.
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JAWS abridged essay plan.
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