How Does Steven Spielberg Create Tension in the Film “Jaws”?

Table of Content

Steven Spielberg employs different methods in order to create a sense of suspense in his movie “JAWS”. This horror/thriller, which was released in 1975, is based on Peter Benchley’s novel. Spielberg, renowned for his skillful use of tension, effectively builds suspense throughout the entire film. The story takes place in the summer resort town of Amity Island and centers around a terrifying great white shark. The peak moment happens on July 4th, which also aligns with Independence Day and signifies liberation from British rule.

The town council overrules the police chief’s attempt to close the beach, as they want to keep them open for financial gain. The police chief seeks assistance from shark hunter Robert Schneider and marine biologist Richard Dreyfuss after several attacks occur. Spielberg effectively creates suspense through various methods, including setting a tranquil atmosphere with the sounds of dolphins and whales in the beginning.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

The atmosphere suddenly shifts, accompanied by two ominous and resonant notes played on a string instrument, perhaps a cello. Subsequently, the tempo accelerates, creating a mysterious and suspenseful composition that steadily intensifies until reaching a crescendo. As the music plays, the camera presents a point of view shot, highlighting the initial two notes.

The impression of the point of view shot is that the viewer is the shark, moving forward while the fish scatter and the bleak cold water is revealed. As the music reaches its climax, the scene abruptly shifts to a group of teenagers sitting around a fire, full of laughter and happiness. This change in atmosphere is highlighted by the use of a panning shot, which emphasizes that the teenagers are safely together as a group. When two people leave the group, they become endangered. Another shot used is an establishing shot to depict the ongoing events.

The bonfire creates a calming and relaxed atmosphere, providing a false sense of security. Additionally, Spielberg uses camera techniques to build suspense. In one scene, Chief Brody anxiously watches the sea for any sign of the shark. The tension is heightened when he spots a woman screaming in the water, captured through a long shot. However, this turns out to be a false alarm, further increasing the suspense.

Spielberg employs a medium shot to depict the young boys energetically entering the water, intensifying Brody’s anxiety due to the increased number of potential victims. Subsequently, a boy is shown seeking his dog, captured through a two/medium shot. Additionally, a stick floating in the water is seen without the presence of the dog, hinting at an unfolding event. The boy resting on a lilo is then presented in a low angle shot, followed by a point of view shot of the shark, resulting in the victim appearing helpless.

In the next camera shot, there is a long shot from the beach capturing the boy on the lilo being attacked by the shark. This shot effectively showcases the size of the predator. Chief Brody becomes aware of the situation, which is conveyed through a technique known as “dolly zoom.” The camera zooms in on Brody’s face while simultaneously moving backwards on a track. Subsequently, a long shot is employed to capture the overall panic and chaos, depicting a crowded scene filled with people screaming.

Suddenly, the atmosphere shifts and silence falls, leaving only the soothing sound of water gently caressing the shoreline. The camera zooms in on the yellow lilo, providing confirmation that the boy has met his demise by the shark. Additionally, the shark is depicted as an ominous presence, indicated by the recurring musical cues that instill a sense of impending danger. With each crescendo leading to a climactic moment, an unfortunate event unfolds.

Spielberg has effectively portrayed a sense of terror through various methods. Firstly, he demonstrates the destructive power of the shark when Quint’s boat is ultimately sunk. Additionally, Spielberg employs camera techniques to convey the fear associated with the shark. For instance, in one scene, Quint’s boat (known as Orca) initially appears sizable but gradually diminishes in size throughout the film, achieved through the use of high angle shots.

The text highlights several aspects of the shark’s size and power in the movie “Jaws”. One example is when the girl is effortlessly pulled around the water at the beginning, indicating the shark’s immense strength. Another scene showcases this power when chief Brody witnesses the shark while feeding it fish, leaving him speechless and prompting the famous line, “we’re gonna’ need a bigger boat”. Overall, the film creates tension by building up a sense of fear as the audience knows the shark is present but remains unseen. Jaws is portrayed as an invisible killer.

The first two attacks happen close together, but the reason for death in the initial attack remains unknown. The second attack occurs the day after the first one and is preceded by a few false alarms, increasing tension. The third attack takes place on Independence Day, July 4th, and involves Chief Brody’s son. During this attack, there is a notable false alarm when two boys pretend to be a shark and scare people away from the water. Meanwhile, the real shark moves to another part of the water where Brody’s son is present.

The film features a woman warning the crowd about a “shark,” causing Brody to become worried about his son in the water. As tension mounts, the ending sees three men battling against a massive great white shark. Notably, Richard Dreyfuss’s character, Matt Hooper, enters a shark cage and witnesses the colossal shark swimming by. The camera effectively portrays the shark’s size in comparison to a man. However, as Matt Hooper keeps an eye on the shark, it unexpectedly approaches him from behind, repeatedly banging against the cage. Eventually, he manages to escape the cage and seeks refuge in a nearby coral reef.

Overall, the scariest scene in the film “Jaws” occurs when Matt Hooper and Chief Brody venture out at night to search for the shark. They come across a wrecked boat floating in the water. Intrigued, Matt decides to examine the bottom of the boat. To everyone’s anticipation, the iconic “Jaws” music begins, signaling a potential shark attack on Matt. However, just before reaching its peak, a shocking surprise awaits viewers. A dead face unexpectedly appears in the hole, catching everyone off guard and intensifying the fear factor.

According to me, this is the most terrifying moment in the movie.

Cite this page

How Does Steven Spielberg Create Tension in the Film “Jaws”?. (2018, May 12). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront