Jaws Cinematography Analysis

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This essay will examine the functions and effects of cinematography in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws
Jaws follows the police chief Brody, along with scientist Hooper and shark hunter Quint, in their attempt to protect the town of Amity against a Great White shark that is terrorising beachgoers. It was adapted from Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name.
Following its release in summer 1975, Jaws became the highest grossing film
As Jaws was one of the first motion pictures to be shot partially on water, the production came across issues with the prosthetic shark, and as a result, Spielberg decided to only suggest the appearance of the shark as often as possible, as opposed to showing the prosthetic body during attacks. This sparing use of the prosthetic, and primary focus instead on creating suspense and dread without the shark visibly present, proved to be an inspired decision, as Jaws is considered a pioneering achievement in the horror genre.
The director of photography for Jaws, Bill Butler, uses cinematography as a mode of visual storytelling, and the choices made regarding shot positioning, blocking of actors and colour palette contribute seismically to the suspenseful and thrilling tone of the film.
For instance, the film opens with John Williams’ now infamous two note
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Following the scene on the beach with the boy and girl, the audience sees a wide angle shot at sea, with the girl in the centre of the frame. The vastness of the water in relation to the girl illustrates her isolation, and who in a cutaway wide shot, is shown to be still on the beach. Their separation emphasises the girls’ vulnerable position in the water, far from the safety of the beach. The wide shot also highlights the space around the girl in the water, and the audiences’ expectance for something sinister to fill this space is what creates suspense in the scene. The critic

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