Steven Spielberg’s thriller Jaws tells a story of a man who tries to regain his masculinity by killing a great white shark. Spielberg attacks the audience with techniques that create suspense and thrill. He begins the movie portraying Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) as a loving husband, a devoted father, and a police officer protecting his island, but when he is confronted with the shark attacks, his masculinity is in danger. Chief Brody watches a little boy get devoured in front of his eyes, unable to do anything about it.
As the shark attacks again, his son was almost taken despite the security of the national coast guard. In the second half of the film, Brody is taken out of his comfort zone and placed in a boat, even though he is afraid of water. On the boat, Orca, Brody tries to become the man, and reassert his masculinity by killing the shark. Brody has to overcome his insecurities of being an outsider, gaining authority in the town, overcome his fear of water, and eventually kill the shark, to gain back his masculinity.
Spielberg shows the powerlessness of Chief Brody from the beginning. When we first notice Brody, he is asking his wife “How come the sun didn’t shine like this [in New York]? ” The audience can already tell that he’s not from around the island. The next shot shows one of his sons coming inside the house showing the mom his cut from the swings, even though the Chief requested him not to use to the swing set. Brody doesn’t have domestic control because his kids tend to listen to their mother more than they listen to their dad.
This is further stressed in a later scene in the film when Brody tells his kids to get off the boat, and they didn’t listen to him, but when the mother tells them to get off, the kids immediately get off the boat. Brody’s lack of authority is shown from the beginning and, throughout the movie, he has to obtain that power. Brody’s lack of authority because he is not an islander is further emphasized with wide-angle shots. In the scene where Brody was getting on the boat to get to the kids swimming, the mayor and the coroner overrule his authority.
In this scene, Brody is in a tight frame: on one side is the boat fence, and on the other side, the mayor. Brody being in a tight frame, shows how trapped he is between making the businesses happy or protecting the people. Even though Chief Brody is police chief, and he’s trying to close down the beaches to protect the islanders, his decision is rejected by the mayor, who wants to keep the beaches open to make money. The mayor implies to Brody is not yet an islander, so he cannot do whatever he wants.
Brody wear dull brown colors to show the audience the dreariness in Brody’s life, while the mayor has a red tie and a red car to show that he has power in this island. This long take scene goes from a medium long shot, to a medium shot to a medium close shot, showing the loss of authority and the increase in the insecurity that Brody has just gained. Spielberg frequently places Brody in a tight frame and uses wide angle lenses to belittle his authority in the small town. Brody’s lack of power is further emphasized with the wide-angle scene of the town council meeting.
Everything and everyone in this scene is in focus. Brody is in the background, while the council members are in the foreground. All the men in front of Brody seem bigger in proportion, which helps with his belittlement. When Brody tells them that he is going to close down the beaches, all the islanders become aggravated and discouraged, and the council members undermine his authority and say it applies only for twenty-four hours. Brody’s authority and power in the town as the chief of police is overtaken by the island business. Brody’s insecurity due to him being an outsider is expanded in the beach scene.
Brody is sitting on the sand looking at the people playing in the ocean, and his wife and her friends are sitting next to him talking. Due to the wide-angle lens and the deep focus on Brody and the people around him, we can see that though Brody is looking out at the ocean, he is listening to his wife (Lorraine Gray) and her friend talking, about how Brody and his family can never be islanders. Brody hearing his wife’s friend say that Brody and his family can never be islanders added onto his insecurity of being an outsider. This scene, in addition to showing Brody’s lack of onfidence about being an outsider, has dramatic irony. Alex, the little boy who is about to be eaten by a shark, is five yards away from Brody. Brody is supposed to guard the people, and the boy he fails to protect from a shark is really close to him. As the scene progresses, the audiences sees a man sitting in front of Brody. The use of wide angle lens shows everything in focus, which shows that Brody’s attention is on two different things. On one side, he is looking out at the ocean to see if a shark is spotted, and on the other, he is half listening to this man talk about his petty problems.
Even as the man is talking, as soon as Brody hears a scream, he panics and stands up, but soon realizes that there was no shark. Soon after that man leaves, an old man comes up to him and tells Brody that everyone knows he is afraid of water. This really hurts Brody’s pride and masculinity because he’s living on an island, where he’s surrounded by water. As the scene progresses even more, we see the people in the ocean through Brody’s subjectivity. As the camera cuts between Brody’s eye-line match of the people in the beach and Brody, the camera gets closer to Brody’s face, showing the audience how intently he is looking.
The fact that the cuts between the people on the beach and Brody are becoming more rapid shows the intensity that Brody is feeling. When Alex is eaten by a shark, Spielberg uses a trombone shot to show Brody’s failure. Though Brody is in focus, the background seems like it’s falling apart, and also the fact that even though Brody is in focus, he seems to be getting smaller and smaller. Brody failed to protect the boy from a shark attack, though he was watching intently, adds on to his insecurity of not being able to protect the islanders. Brody is running along the sand to get everyone out of the water, but not stepping into the water.
Brody not getting into the water even after he failed to protect Alex shows his insecurity and fear of water and this greatly affects his authority and his masculinity. Chief Brody’s first step toward masculinity happens after Mrs. Kintner tells him that her son died because of him. Chief Brody knew from the beginning that a shark has been in the water, but he didn’t warn the islanders, causing Alex’s death. After Mrs. Kintner accuses him, Brody felt guilty and powerless, for listening to the mayor instead of protecting the people. After that incident, Brody starts making decisions and becoming more powerful in the town.
He also starts to overcome his fears slowly. The scene where Brody, his wife and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) are sitting down at the dining table and drinking uses low-key lighting is used, which creates a somber, gloomy mood to the atmosphere. Hooper is seen wearing a red tie, suggesting that he is psychologically stronger than Brody, since he’s not scared of water. Brody is also behind both his wife and Hooper, showing that Brody is not as powerful as the others. Then, all the sudden, Brody tells Hooper “… before we go down and cut that shark open,” and his wife questions Brody’s authority by asking “…can you do that? to which Brody replies “I can do anything, I’m the chief of police. ” By quoting this, Brody has taken the first step toward gaining his masculinity. He wants his wife and Hooper to know that he can protect the island. After cutting open the shark, Hooper wants Brody to go out in the water at night and tells Brody that he can go out in the water, and he can go on a boat. That is the turning point of act one because even though Brody is afraid of water, he goes to the ocean at night to find the shark. This scene is also important because Hooper pushes Brody to become a man; Hooper tells Brody he can go out in the water.
Hooper becomes a source of encouragement for Brody. Chief Brody makes the biggest step toward becoming a man on the Fourth of July weekend at the beach when his son almost dies. Despite the security Brody placed on the beach, the shark does attack, and Brody’s own son was almost taken; Brody is not able to protect his own family from danger. The eye-line match of Brody looking out at the ocean, after his son was taken out of the water, suggests that he’s already thinking about going out into the ocean and killing the shark, and the low-angle shot on Brody shows the change Brody is going to make.
In the hospital, Brody tells his wife to take their other son back home, and she asks him “home as in New York? ” to which he replies, “No, home as in here. ” This shows that Brody is going to make himself and his family islanders and he will protect these people from the shark attacks. In the hospital, the scene with the mayor standing by the reception desk in the background and Brody standing in the foreground transfers the power between the two.
Brody is bigger than the mayor in the shot, so from this moment on, Brody will be more effectual than the mayor and will close down the beaches. Through a tracking shot, Brody makes the Mayor sign the contract paper to hire Quint to kill the shark. Brody orders the mayor to sign instead of merely asking him, which is a turning point. We can also see that the mayor isn’t wearing a red tie, like the last few times, which suggest that he does not have the power anymore. From this point on, Brody will have the upper hand, and he will close down the beaches and kill the shark.
This turning point marks the end of act two, marking the power that Brody gains in the island before he goes out in the ocean. Brody going on Orca to kill the shark with Quint (Robert Shaw) and Hooper really helped him gain his masculinity because they challenged him and also taught him. When Brody journeys on Orca, he knows nothing about fishing, or even how to tie a knot. In one scene, Quint teaches Brody how to tie a knot though a mnemonic device, suggesting that Quint thinks of Brody as a man who’s worthless, calling him chief as a form of mockery.
Unlike Quint, Hooper challenges him to grow. He yells at Brody about almost blowing up the ship, while Quint just tells Brody to ask him next time. At this moment, Brody feels like a kid who can’t do anything right. Using the medium close up of his facial expression after Hooper yells at him, Spielberg shows the audience the distressed look on Brody’s face. . Not only does Brody not know the basic fishing skills, he wears black while both of the other men wear blue on the ship, suggesting the sea knowledge they have that Brody lacks.
It shows that he still has a lot to learn before he can be considered equal to the two men. Chief Brody’s lack of masculinity is stressed at night when Hooper and Quint discuss their scars. Quint and Hooper both have scars that they got from adventures with ocean animals. While both of the seamen compare their scars, Brody stands in the background in a low-key lighting. The camera cuts to Brody lifts up his shirt to check for scars that he can share, but he has none. He feels weak compared to the two seamen.
Brody standing in low light creates a weakened and pathetic mood that Brody is feeling. Even though Brody is a police officer, he has no impressive scars or stories that he can share, which really affects his manliness. Brody standing in the low-key lighting, which creates a shadow on half his face, adds on to the depressed, not worthy feeling that Brody is feeling. Brody is also seen wearing a black shirt, which again adds on to the depressed mood that he’s feeling, because he’s not as manly as the others, and he doesn’t have any scars.
Hooper and Quint’s disagreements with each other helps bring Brody gain equality because he’s a middle ground for those two. Hooper is a rich, young man, having a lot of science knowledge; Hooper goes on this journey to kill the shark because it looks good on his resume, and he is fascinated with sharks. Quint, on the other hand, is an old man who has knowledge about fighting a shark already and he goes on this journey to add on to his manly “shark-killing” image. Brody, unlike the others, wants to save the islanders from the shark, and mainly, he wants to reassert his masculinity.
In the beginning of act three, Brody was weaker than the others, and he wasn’t yet their equals. On the boat scene, after Quint decides to lure the shark back into the shallow waters, we can see that Quint, Brody and Hooper are all equals now, standing in a triangle shape. Spielberg arranged the actors in this way to emphasize the balance that Brody has brought on to the ship and also that Brody is equal to both of the seamen. Brody gaining equality on the boat is seen more after the scar scene, which leads to the turning point in the third act.
In this scene, Brody is seen sitting and drinking with Quint and Hooper instead of doing the dirty work on the boat. Shortly after this scene, Brody and Quint are shooting at the shark, which helps emphasize the equality between the two men. They are competent enough to try to shoot the shark, while Hooper is driving the boat, so all three of the men are working equally hard to help defeat the shark. This parallels back to the scene when they first saw the shark, Quint and Hooper are both preparing to kill the shark, while Brody is just standing there watching.
However, in the later scene, Brody and Hooper are both tying the rope to the cleat, showing that Brody has learned to tie a strong knot and can be trusted by Quint and Hooper to help on the boat without making mistakes. In showing this minor detail, Spielberg is telling the audience that all three men are now doing important work on the boat and Brody is no longer less powerful than the other two men. Brody balancing the two seamen was greatly emphasized in the climax of the film; Hooper and Quint’s different shark-killing methods are used by Brody.
Hooper is placed in the water in a shark proof cage, hoping to kill the shark with his scientific methods, which fail him, causing Hooper to swim away and hide from the shark. Quint, not prepared for the shark, which just jumped out the water and on the boat, dies. Quint desperately grabs on to Brody’s hand, trying to save himself, but he slips, and the shark kills him while Brody watches. This scene parallels back to the scene when Alex died in front of Brody’s eyes, and Brody wasn’t able to do anything, just like how he wasn’t able to protect Quint now. Brody, who’s scared of water, is all alone on the sinking Orca.
Quint failed to kill the shark with power and Hooper failed to kill the shark with science, so Brody takes lessons from both of these models and blows up the shark with both science and power: he places an oxygen tank in the shark’s mouth, and then destroys the beast with a gun. The close up of Brody’s face right after he kills the shark shows the audience how happy is he is. The back and forth shots of the shark and Brody trying to kill the shark create tension and suspense. With the destruction of the shark, Brody’s masculinity is redeemed. He protected the island from shark, and his fear of water is gone.
Steven Spielberg’s thriller tells a story of a weak man who escaped from New York to a small island, Amity. Chief Brody, a man with many insecurities and fear of water, comes to Amity only to find himself having to protect the island from a shark. In the beginning of the film, he is a weak man who is not considered powerful, though he is the only police officer on the island. His insecurities and lack of control was conveyed through wide-angle shots. Brody goes on a psychical quest to concur his fear of water and eventually kill the shark in order to regain his masculinity, which he was able to do in the end.