Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)

Jaws

With the aid of Panavision and Technicolor, Spielberg creates a monumental 70s film bringing together the epic scale of David Lean and the captivating action of Alfred Hitchcock. Jaws grabs you and sinks deep. Though psychological and violent, Jaws is somehow wholesome too, and today it is a household name. This is because Spielberg, as usual, draws his characters with a lot of heart–they are somehow relatable. And while Sentimental Spielberg has become a bit cliche–and copied a million times–Jaws purports Spielberg’s human sentiment at its most poignant and genuine manner. Because of this, we come to care about the characters, particularly Roy Schieder who goes from pipsqueak to hero in the course of 2 hours, and we feel invited into their world. This is Spielberg. And Jaws is perhaps the ultimate Spielberg.

What’s most underrated in this film is how technically proficient and creative is the cinematography–nevermind the special effects. There are many Hitchock-influenced cranes, sure, like the one which crosses the room to show Quint for the first time, or the many action takes across the boat. But Spielberg uses the advent of Panavision and Technicolor to make his own cinematographic statement. When Brody notices the boy being attacked, there is a rapid shot of his face in response. The camera appears to zoom out while tracking in. There is a kaleidescope of colour. It gives one vertigo. It gives a similar impression but is the exact reverse of the technique actually used in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It is the best shot of the film.

Many other scenes of the film utilize virtuosic camera movements, which frankly are not nearly as pronounced in the majority of Spielberg’s films to follow. The score from John Williams is not only iconic–nor a mere derivative of Bernard Hermann’s work with Hitchcock–but a necessary force in story development and aesthetic appreciation of the film. Utilized as a motif, the film’s theme becomes not only a haunting aspect of the film but a resonant feature of post-screening affect.

87/100 – Excellent.

4 Stars

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About Kamran Ahmed

I have a Masters in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. I work as a freelance writer and film critic in Vancouver. My writing is primarily distributed through Next Projection, an online film journal based in Toronto.
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