Jaws (1975) Directed by Steven Spielberg

Astrid:I did not swim in a lake for at least a whole summer as a kid because some boy in the daycare had mentioned the word killershark to me. As an 8-year-old I saw a couple of scenes from Jaws with my 18-year-old second cousin and was freaked out again. Then again, I used to be afraid of little fish too, not just sharks – I did not want to touch any fish skin. 

When ever I go on tour or somewhere, Nick watches Jaws – for him it's like Woody Allen for me, reliable and comfortable and you need the annual doses. But Jaws? Really darling?

What kind of a film maker spends the first half of the film developing tension with the main character's family in the picture but then chucks the whole story line and goes shark hunting? Are we supposed to experience a natural transition to the second half of the film through Richard Dreyfuss' shark expert? It's baffling. 

Whereas the part of Jaws that happens on the island at least has some entertaining 1970s New Hollywood appeal in the way it portrays people, once we are on the boat I am bored. I cannot get over the insulting way this picture does away with continuation in plot and replaces it with the shark.

Shark shark shark. A symbolic animal for the mindless garbage-eating monsters that Hollywood has churned out ever since.


I have a special relationship with Jaws. When I was 9 I went to the cinema with my sister to watch Jaws. It was PG (parental guidance) at the time. Well, the film scared me stiff, and I had nightmares for quite a few months after.  But as I grew up, I kept going back to the film to see why it had such a profound effect on me as a child. I never really found the reason why, other than I was probably too young to take in some of the nowadays pretty tame violence. But Jaws is a film I've revisited many times now as an adult, and it keeps getting better.

What fascinates me now about Jaws is how this picture became so huge. It smashed box office records at the time. The film debuted at a time when the realist New Hollywood was beginning to fade, and a more populist cinema was about to take over and influence modern cinema forever (Spielberg's buddy George Lucas was two years away with Star Wars). In reality, no one has ever forgiven Spielberg for this influence. Yet Jaws is definitely a New Hollywood picture with a budget and a  heavy debt to Hitchcock's Psycho.

Spielberg shows very little in the first hour, with John Williams now legendary stabbing theme (Psycho again) giving us advance warning of a pending shark attack.  But believable turns from Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and the excellent Richard Dreyfuss give credence to a lot of the dumb plot turns on screen which in essence lead us to a very poor looking mechanical rubber shark! The last hour of the film is a three men in a boat play, with some great dialogue and interplay.

Spielberg never gets much critical credit, seemingly portrayed as a maker of kids movies and over sentimental rubbish. Yet as director Spielberg has made quite a few gems: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Raiders Of the Lost Ark, E.T., Empire Of the Sun, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and more than a few other good films. Jaws was where his personal style came through for the first time. That style has been founded on solid storytelling and a remit to entertain. And cinema does not get much more entertaining than the mechanical rubber shark picture.


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