Tuesday, February 4, 2014


The quality and types of camera movements and the quick cuts between shots are all visual aides in portraying the fear that the characters feel during a shark attack in Jaws. The choice of high or low camera angles and the use of lighting, especially during the night scenes, also help to tell the story. The significance of these elements is seen on the boat while the three main characters are trying to catch the shark.

The close-ups or quick panning and sharp cuts work together to portray their fear and determination. Some of the shots on the boat also send a message of who is the most comfortable at sea. To be more specific, let us focus on the scene when Police Chief Martin Brody, Quint, and Matt Hooper are preparing to leave on their expedition to find the shark. The one particular shot in mind is the one that is seen taken from Quint’s self-made mini-museum of shark jaws. The camera is looking out from a window or door and what the audience sees is Quint up on the top deck singing, certainly very comfortable with what he is doing. Hooper is seen on the lower deck preparing some of his gear, but seems a little nervous, especially since the boat is rocking a bit next to the dock and it looks like he’s about to fall. Brody is still on the dock and doesn’t appear to be anywhere near comfortable going on the boat yet. It also appears he is holding some of his personal belongings close to him because that is what is familiar to him.

Throughout this scene, the medium and medium long shots and soft camera angles let the characters and the mise en scene do more of the storytelling. Later in the film, when the three are out to sea, the camera shifts as the characters move. One particular shot that comes to mind is when Quint is down at the very front of the boat sitting on a lawn chair with a makeshift vest and a fishing pole that he cast. He had just had an encounter with the shark taking the bait. In this shot, Brody is standing behind him, with kind of a half-smile, half-worn out look on his face. His body is kind of turned away from the camera, telling us that he is not comfortable with what just happened. Hooper is sitting relaxed on the edge of the boat with a smile on his face, about as big as the smile on Quint’s face.

This shot helps to support the original shot mentioned in also portraying the comfort level of each character. Quint is obviously the most comfortable, especially since it is his boat. It appears Hooper is not as comfortable as Quint because he does not seem to be as at home on a boat such as Quint’s. Hooper is comfortable with what is going on because of his background as a shark scientist. Now, Brody is certainly the least comfortable of all considering he is a police chief who is originally from New York City and is visibly not at all comfortable with the water, let alone shark hunting.

Each of the shots on the boat tell a story. The sequence of action shots tell a bigger story as the film progresses when they are pursuing the shark. Where the camera is positioned to portray where each character is in the shot, shows how each character grows, particularly Brody. At the beginning of their expedition, Brody was so uncomfortable he did not even want to get in the boat even though he knew he had to. By the end, once Quint is gone and Hooper is presumed dead as well, Brody is left with no choice but to protect himself. In the mise en scene, how he is seen in the water and on the mast of the boat, it appears that he has been forced to face his fear of the water and the shark. At this point, it is a matter of life and death. In turn, the sequence of shots portraying the mise en scene helped tell the story of character growth.

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