Jaws – I can not say how many times I have watched this movie from the first time in the cinema when I was about 12 in 1976 to the present day.
Now I watch the movie from the point-of-view of a student film-maker and I am appreciating the classic film-making techniques that Spielberg employed for this film.
Spielberg employs the so-called Vertigo effect invented by Hitchcock and his cinematographer Robert Burks for the movie of the same name and used in the scene when Brody’s worst fear is realized in front of him on the beach.
Cutting between shots.
Speilberg uses extras to cross in front of the lens to help with cuts between shots in the scene of Brody watching the swimmers with anxiety from his deck-chair.
Spielberg uses a special lens called a split-focus-lens to keep Brody in focus in the foreground whilst also having a sharp focus on a girl screaming in the surf as she frolics with her boyfriend.
The over-the-shoulder shot.
Brody repeat three times at various intervals his suggestion to go back to shore for a bigger boat. Spielberg uses this to suggest to the audience that the hero’s are not suitably equipped to deal with this monster.
Use of the 180-degree-rule.
Soundtrack for dramatic effect.
Use of smoke for a night shot to suggest sea-mist for a better light effect.
The rule-of-thirds composition.
Speeding up the film for greater drama.
Using a graphic-match-cut of the view of the ocean from the end of the scene after the death of the first victim to a view of the ocean the following morning from Martin Brody’s home as we are introduced to the main character. Keeping the level of the ocean’s horizon the same on the screen we have a smooth cut from one scene to another. even though the light and colour balance has changed.
Motifs example many motifs directly or indirectly representing Jaws used in framing and symbolism.
The motivated dolly shots.
Motivated dolly shots on static subjects for example at the town meeting the camera dolly’s in to Quint as he speaks then dolly’s in to Brody who is listening thus representing to the audience Quint’s importance and re-enforcing this with the dolly in to Brody who is the only one taking Quint seriously. This type of dolly is intended to communicate an important message to the audience in a none direct way, I began to notice this as soon as I started to consider the dolly shot as I noticed some dolly shots used on static subjects and thought very hard as to why they were done to understand the motivation behind employing that technique instead of just keeping the camera stationary. I realize this technique is a little like treating the audience like a nosy person at a party who moves closer to a conversation that appears to be interesting or to move away when a conversation becomes embarrassing or too uncomfortable to be apart of it. Another example (not used in Jaws) is the passing dolly when a static subject is shot from a passing camera that keeps the subject central whilst moving left to right or right to left. This again is taking the audience past the subjects, just like nosy-parkers at a party listening in on a private conversation. It also helps add an emotional connection to the scene. It took me while to figure out the hidden meaning behind these shots and it was out walking my dog that I acted out the part of the camera and used a tree as the subject. It was when I considered the lens as the audience not a camera did this technique make sense to me. I would like to use this technique myself but I needed to understand why and when to use it if my films are to look professional and not just amateur with smart-Alec / clever-dick, shots.
The passing-the-baton in acting.
In acting there is a phenomenon known as passing the baton this often occurs in the development of relationships or arguments when the balance of power shifts from one character to another this can be in terms of confidence, morality, control, social position, etc. In Jaws we can see these shifts in the confidence and relationships between Brody, Quint and Hooper. Between these characters we see the baton passed from one to another as there confidence rises and falls and as each learn from each other and become more respectful of each other.
These are the tricks I have noticed so far and I am sure other people can add to this list and I will find more to add myself in the future. This film is a must watch for any film-maker.