The Influence of Sound on the Suspense of the Movie “Jaws”

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Jaws’ is a thriller with an exciting plot. A thriller is a genre that creates tension and suspense. A typical thriller can feature a terrifying predator and in Jaws it is the shark that is the predator. Films like King Kong and ‘The Fly’ which were early predecessors had major influences on more modern films like Jaws. It was followed by ‘The Return of the Fly. Jaws was made in Long Island America in 1975. It was made by Steven Spielberg. It is set on a beach resort and it is about a great white shark that was disrupting holidays.

It firstly took the life of a young girl at night.

Next, it took the life of a child when the sea green waters turn red. Police Chief Brody, the local Inspector decides to take up the case with the help of a marine biologist and a fisherman they put an end to the bloodshed. At the beginning of the first scene in Jaws it is a dark night which is typical icon of thriller genres which thrills and creates mystery, fear and tension in the viewer.

We become engaged in the play by focusing on the two silhouettes across the beach. They create the initial plot and it keeps us hooked to the movie right from the beginning.

There are a group of young teenagers socializing around a fire, all happy and enjoying themselves. The diegetic sounds of people chatting and music gives us a feel of romance genre. The camera focuses a close-up shot of two of the main characters in the scene amongst the crowd and they both stare at each other as if they are madly in love.

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Suddenly, the sense of danger comes into the scene when the young girl, who is the main character jumps to her feet and runs down the beach pulling her clothes off to attract attention to the teenage boy.

In a long-shot the camera follows their two silhouettes. We can sense the vulnerability at that point as they are strangers, naked, alone and slightly drunk. After that a long shot shows the girl jumping into the water. Here the thriller genre begins. The teenage girl is swimming smoothly for only a little while. Suddenly, she is pulled down into the water and is trying to shout for help. The audience is confused and hooked when this happens. The close-up of the girl shows that she is being pulled from side to side continuously and eventually she dies and the scene ends.

The viewer is confused and they feel sorry for the girl as they couldn’t identify the attacker of the death. Mystery, which is the typical feature of thriller genre, is used at the end of this scene as we are left clueless. Also using Todorov’s theory of disequilibrium is applied here, when the audience is left in confusion on a climax. The second attack scene starts with an evocative atmosphere with a calm relaxed beach scene in the morning with families enjoying themselves on Americas Independence day on Long Island. They are all happy and cheerful.

This gives a sense of false security and the shark attack will have devastating impact on the people enjoying themselves. The viewer gets hints that another attack is about to happen when the camera focuses on Chief Brody’s face. When we see his facial expressions, we see that he seems stressed and tense. There are mid-close-ups of the chief looking over shoulders. This creates tension by transferring the stress to the audience; the viewer knows more than the character about what is going to happen which is dramatic irony as we know about the previous attack which is shown in the Chief’s facial expressions.

Non-digetic sound is used to add to the atmosphere when the Chief can’t concentrate on the beach as the radio is on and people are talking and screaming. We are left in suspense wondering if there is going to be another attack. The central characters that are used as a focus indicate the dog and boy, the old man, the Chief, the little boy building a castle, the woman floating in the water and a big group of children. The viewers are nervous about what is going to happen which keeps us hooked to the movie. These characters are used to give two false alarms.

The man in the black swim hat looks like a shark and the boy who lifts the girl underwater creates the impression of an attack. We are kept tense waiting for the attack and alarmed by the false warnings. Other signs and symbols used to denote danger when the man calls out for his dog and he has suddenly gone missing. The signified meaning of this is that the dog has been killed by the shark and the presence of the shark creates suspense. We first see the shark when it is introduced by underwater camera shots which make the audience tense and aware that the shark is going to attack.

We feel helpless because we can’t let the characters know there is a shark in the ocean. It is confirmed for the audience that an attack is going to happen because the sound is a signature sound which complements the underwater camera. The boy lies down on his float he goes deeper into the ocean and he is turned upside down by the shark and then we see a rush of red blood in the ocean which tells the viewers he is eaten. Next, we see a huge rush of families run from the beach onto the shore.

The camera is then used to see Chief Brody from another perspective using a panoramic view to show the alarm and fear on his face after the attack. The dramatic irony in this scene is that we see everything from the Chief’s perspective. In the final scene we continue to concentrate on the hero as we have been following him throughout the film; the Chief. There are many camera shots ranging from a long-shot zoom which captures Chief Brody’s reactions and emotions. This empathises and engages the audience. We want him to survive and true to conventions the hero does survive.

The camera zooms upwards on his eyes at the key moment to register emotion when they are lowering the marine biologist into the cage. His fear transfers to the audience which makes us tense. The viewers see that there is chemistry in Brody’s and the marine biologist’s friendship. The audience feels the sense of happiness between the two. There are symbols to suggest the possible outcomes and events; whether the cage will protect or confine the trap. This creates anxiety for the viewers. We wonder if he will survive his encounter with the shark.

There is a hint of danger when the camera zooms on significant symbols; when the fisherman tries to drug the shark and the poison falls through the bars. This increases tension and there could possibly be different endings. There is non-digetic music, the jaws signature tune which plays when the shark appears near the cage and stops when the shark is more visual towards the end of the scene. This lets the viewer of the sharks’ presence and the music is peaceful and calm as soon as the shark is destroyed at the end and drifts towards the sea bed.

This creates an effect of happiness and satisfaction as the audience is fearless. Overall, I think Jaws is a successful thriller because of the suspense that is created in the movie. For example, the signature tune keeps us in apprehension waiting to see what happens next. Also, the movie is realistic because sharks could actually kill you in real life which gives us creates a realistic effect. If you compare Jaws to ‘Jurassic Park’ for example; this thriller won’t keep us in as much suspense like it would in Jaws because dinosaurs are not actually living creatures and so the plot lacks terrifying realism.

The plot in Jurassic Park is fantastical and also, the characters in the movie always escape death. The first frightening technique in the movie is in the opening scene when the girl is focused on and there is a close up of her being pulled under. This puts tension on the audience as we don’t know what is attacking the girl. Then in the last scene where there is increase in tension for the audience and we think that there could possibly many kinds of different endings to the story.

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The Influence of Sound on the Suspense of the Movie “Jaws”. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

The Influence of Sound on the Suspense of the Movie “Jaws”
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