Why young movie fans shouldn’t think it’s safe to go back in the water
Jaws is more than entertainment; it’s one of the all-time greats
There’s currently a generation that can’t enter the water without the fear of underwater monsters breaking the surface to feast on helpless swimmers. There was once a time when these beachgoer’s eyes weren’t on constant lookout for ominous shadows off the coast of the shoreline. Even the thought of taking a bath triggers memories of a certain shark gorging on the various tourists enjoying the summer shore in the waters of Amity Island.
Since the release of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, a relentless, dramatic thriller based on a book of the same name by rookie fiction author Peter Benchley, many who’ve seen the film have been cautious about underwater activities. A film infamous for its underwater effects, haunting score, and ability to disturb the audience into great depths of fear, Jaws not only helped to jump-start the career of director Steven Spielberg, but also excels as a film that plays out the consequences of ignorance and the inability to acknowledge tragedy.
Spielberg is a name known even to people outside of the movie business. His directorial filmography includes blockbuster hits such as Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (all critically acknowledged as some of the best films of all time), as well as the best picture winner at the Academy Awards: Schindler’s List. That’s only scratching the surface… Spielberg has gone on to produce, write, and influence several work. Continuing to make films with the same caliber as the beginning of his career his most recent work, Lincoln, is now up for twelve Academy Awards, the most out of any film this year. All of this would not have been possible had his talents not been put to the test when he was asked, years ago, as a young up-and-coming director to take control of the film Jaws. In his sophomore attempt at feature filmmaking (his initial being the drama film The Sugarland Express), Spielberg proved to the world his visionary talent in the world of cinema.
This generation may think of Spielberg as a visionary director whose every work is nominated several times for awards and praised by critics. Earlier generations, however, may have memories of Spielberg as being seen as merely an entertainer: a director whose movies made huge money but did little to make a person think. However, Spielberg’s brilliance didn’t start with Schindler’s List as these people may think. The art was already present with Jaws.
Jaws was a movie that not only did well in the box office, but it was able to convey humanity, and the mistakes and error they make when it comes to seeing what’s right in front of them. Not only is Jaws a nail-biting thriller, it’s also a drama about a man who yearns to secure the safety of his community, even if it means fighting against his superiors. In a way, the hunt for a shark becomes a relinquishing of denial and a hunt for a conclusion.
Subtlety is a factor greatly overlooked when it comes to suspense in most films looking to scare an audience. An accomplishment not easily expressed, Jaws was able to create an atmosphere shrouded with discomfort and uncertainty. The viewers are never truly aware nor are they ever in trust of the film. Constantly on edge waiting for what could happen next, the mere sight of water stimulates the dread within the minds of many watchers.
It’s the unseen, the fear of the unknown that creates such an undertone of anxiety. All of this is possible when accompanied by the shark-eye view camera floating amongst the undertow and John William’s famous, two-note score slowly building into a macabre crescendo of terror.
Last August, Jaws was released on Blu-ray along with an additional feature-length documentary titled The Shark Is Still Working. The documentary is the work of Jaws fans depicting the legacy of Spielberg’s film over many years.
Not many films are able to advertise the word “masterpiece” when its title is mentioned, but if any film deserves the logo, it’s Jaws.
A wild goose-chase for the life of a man-eating shark, Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film both frightens and captures audiences in a way that not many movies are able to achieve. This alone gains it the respect and honor it deserves as one of the greatest films of all time. And maybe after watching it, you’ll come to see why the older generations are so scared of the beach.