In this essay i intend to discuss and analyse the techniques used to create tension in the film “Jaws”. “Jaws” has had a great influence on films today , films such as “Deep blue sea” and the sequels of “Jaws” , all blended into the idea of a monstrous sea creature reaping havock on a small town idea. However “Jaws” was very much influenced itself by the book “Moby Dick” , which also talks about a man getting revendge on a shark for taking something loved from him. Jaws is part of the horror/thriller genre, and its general conventions , freaky music and dark, stormy settings.
We will see how these conventions could build up tension in the film. In attack two the camera techniques are used very carefully to create a significant amount of tension in the film. Towards the beginning of the scene, the camera uses tracking to follow the young boy run up the beach to his mother, this focus’s just on him, immediatly showing us that he will be the child to get killed, but we dont know when. There is then a midshot of the boy asking his mother for 10 minuetes longer in the water, this shows the relationship between mother and son, which will underline the tragedy of the boys death.
The camera then takes a closeup of brody watching the water , the closeup on his face shows hes tense and anticipating somethings going to happen. A dog then runs into the water , they use a tracking shot of the dog to show the peace has been distruped, anticipating the sharks presence. There is then a close up of the dog swimming with his stick, this is a happy moment which acts as a sence of relief. The next closeup of the boy on his lilo, shows us his vunerability, another thing to make us think he is the one to be killed.
A midshot of brody watching the water then shows hes aware of the shark but not positive of its presence, his anxiety makes the viewer just as nervous as he is. There is next a long shot of a woman int he water screaming, this immediatly makes us tense we think somethings happened to the woman, but shes fine, this acts as short relief. There are then two different feelings captured by a tracking shot , there is a contrast between the boys peaceful singing and the man franticly calling his dog build up the tension, show us the mood of the beach.
Suddenly there is a close-up of legs under water, shows us the shark is watching and moving in, focusing on its victim. The attack is getting very close, the young boy has no idea. The attack is then seen in the distance using a long shot, this is an overview of the of the action, we still cant see the shark properly , making our imaginations build up tension , in thereselves. A close up is used on brody, making us feel his emotions of terror, realisation.
The general panic of the beach is then captured by jump shots , showing us the confusion and panic, making our hearts race. A mid-shot then follows the lilo washing up on the shore , brings back the calm , but the blood red lilo reveals to us that it was alex who was attacked. Making us then feel for his mother. All these shots and techniques in this attack show how the camera angles build up alot of tension in not just this scene but in the hole film. Another key technique of building up tension in the film , is the music.
The biggest tension builder in the film must be the “crescendo”, which is the piece of music that plays just before every attack, the music tells us the shark has spotted its victim and builds up, mor and more until the attack has finished. The contrast of music and the horrors of the scene espcially helps build tension in attacks one and two. The contrasts between the nice calm , peaceful, funfilled music on the beach with the horror of the attack show us what was there before the tragedy, and what it just killed .
Music is truelly the ruler of our emotions, therefore tense music like crescendos make use tence also, whereas calm music makes us feel relieved and safe. Therefore if the two are contrasted together it makes us jump from one to the next, building great tension. The character representation in “Jaws” is also used as a means to create tension. The stereopical white male heroes in the film help create tension in the film because of there contrasting personalitys. Quint is very experienced at sea however hopper is wrecksless and eager ,” posh little colledge boy”.
Whereas Brodys very nervous and unsure. People with these contrasting personalitys wouldnt get along in a normal situation, but just imagine the atmosphere when they were stuck on a tiny boat in the middle of the ocean under threat of being attacked by a great white shark. They had to bite there tongues and get along, this situation in the scene makes the atmosphere very tense. Through the film the shark is gradually revealed to us , but why dont we see the whole shark straight away?
Our imaginations are the answer, if we dont see much of the shark it lets out imaginations run wild, the shark could be as big and hidious as we want them to be, Imagination being more powerful than reality, like when you lie in bed at night, for example, and you here creeking noices above you, your imagination starts and you imagine it to be a ghost or a murder getting ready to kill your family, when in reality its just a rat or the wind. Another very small but significant way of creating tension used in “Jaws” is the use of signs and codes.
The fire on the beach fore instance builds tension without us knowing because red is a code for danger, the music is also a big code for danger, lets us know when something bad is going to happen. The narrative structure of “Jaws” also helps to build tension. The moments of tramatic relief help make the tense parts more tense. If the film was tense all the way through it would become a bore, we wouldnt jump anymore, therefore the narrative structure has been carefully planned to make the tense parts extremly tense, without this strategy the film wouldnt be as tense and shocking as it is today.
Throughout “Jaws” there are many things that have been carefully grafted to make the film as tense as possible and a success. The use of music, camera angles, the contrast between the characters representations, the signs and codes, and the narrative structure of the film have all been blended together to make an equilibrium of tension. Without anyone of these things the film wouldnt be nearly as tense, its the small things that count in life.