Reflecting On: Jaws
I was 7 years old the first time I saw the film that stopped a generation going into the water. People avoided going to the beach, or fishing or even going on a boat trip because of this film and I loved it!
The film, based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel Jaws which has sold over twenty million copies worldwide, first appeared in cinemas in 1975. It was the first film to make $100 million dollars at the box office. Directed by Steven Spielberg, Jaws has proven to be one of the most enduring classic suspense moves of all time.
Set in the summer in the small seaside town of Amity, a woman is killed during a midnight swim. Police Chief Martin Brody suspects this is not an accident. Brody has to convince the local community that they need to close the beaches. Brody was not born in Amity so is considered an outsider. His protestations to close the beaches, falls on death ears. The Mayor of Amity, Larry Vaughn is set dead against it as it would stop all the tourists and summer trade coming to Amity, especially over the fourth of July weekend. Brody reluctantly has to allow the beaches to remain open.
After a young boy is killed, Brody’s suspicions are confirmed, they were victims of a shark attack. A local fisherman Quint offers to hunt it down. He is joined by Marine Scientist Matt Hooper and Brody, the three men embark on a voyage determined to locate and kill the Great White Shark that is hunting and killing the residents of Amity.
The film stars Roy Sheider as Police Chief Brody. Scheider encapsulates brilliantly Brody’s struggle to convince the town to believe him. The pain and his belief in what he knows to be true are clear to see. The most touching scene involves Brody with his young son. His son mimics him while he is sat at the dinner table, deep in his own thoughts. Sheider utters the film’s most famous line when the Great White finally breaks the surface of the sea and the three men finally get to see exactly what they are dealing with; ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat’.
A young Richard Dreyfuss stars as the educated Matt Hooper. Hooper is from a wealthy background and Dreyfus conveys this very well during the battle for power between him and Quint. Quint sees himself as a working man and Hooper as a man who has sat behind a desk his whole life. Dreyfus brings a childlike quality to the character of Hooper which you immediately warm to. He keeps you entertained with the bickering between him and Quint.
The late great Robert Shaw plays Quint. Shaw holds a distinguished acting background and was more commonly used to treading the boards on stage as oppose to the big screen. Shaw is captivating as Quint. You like him despite his roughness. The most emotive scene involves Shaw telling the story about the USS Indianapolis. Quint was aboard the Indianapolis when a Japanese Submarine fired two missiles into the side of it. As the vessel sunk, the men aboard went into the water. By the time they were rescued nearly half of the men had been killed by sharks. ‘Eleven hundred men went into the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest’.
As a viewer you are transfixed at this point in the film by Shaw, almost like a child getting read a bedtime story. His voice is so full of emotion when telling his story you can feel his fear being in that water waiting to be next. It is at that point in the film you realise that for the character of Quint, this hunt is personal.
The chemistry between the three leading men is superb. They come together like a band of brothers, even though all three are unique in their own right. The scenes when they are alone together out in the water with no-one else around are outstanding. The final scenes of the film grip you to the edge of your seats. You are rooting for them to kill the shark.
Now when I watch the opening sequence of the film and I hear the haunting musical score composed by John Williams I am immediately transformed into the 7 year old girl who all those years ago watched the film with fear and excitement racing through me. And that is why Jaws is still one of my most favourite films of all time.
Article by guest author Kerry Waters.