The haunting, two-note theme. The dark, seemingly endless ocean. The perfectly evolved, almost unstoppable killing machine. Most of you will already know from just these three details, which is my favourite film of all time. For those of you who don't (have you been with the Curiosity Rover somewhere?) the film I speak of is Jaws.
"It's just a movie about a big shark eating people (and boats)", many will say. So why is it my number one? Let me explain. One thing that I think of that makes it different from any other film I enjoy, is that I can remember particular scenes at different parts of my life. My earliest memory is the head floating underwater in the sunken boat when Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss) is investigating the missing vessel. It scared me silly and was all I could remember of the film until I watched it again, a bit older and not as fearful!
Following that, it became the piece right towards the end as the original "sea dog" Quint (brilliantly portrayed by Robert Shaw) met his end by being bitten in half by the great fish, as it demolished the aft section of the "Orca." So many more scenes joined these two as I gained more appreciation for this film, the more times I watched it: Quint checking Hooper's hands, only to state they hadn't done a days "hard graft." The fantastic scene which gives the audience a little rest from the anxiety of the shark's next attack: Hooper, Quint and of course Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), are getting drunk and comparing scars whilst singing "Show me the way to go home."
It isn't just these favourite scenes which I like so much, it's also the production techniques used to have us on the edge and pull us back from being briefly relaxed. Most people have a fear of the dark, we can't see what's out there. A lot of us can swim yes, but If we were to be isolated in a vast ocean, we would panic. The opening scenes are that of a girl, Chrissie Watkins, struggling in vain to fight off the great white shark which will not stop until it has its victim. This happens during the very early hours of the morning, when the reassurance of sunlight has not yet begun to lay its blanket of hope on the sea. She is alone, and it is dark.
Director Steven Spielberg's often used, excellent use of a filming technique known as "Dolly zoom" draws us quickly into the shocked face of Chief Brody, as he sees the shark or whilst the local community of Amity celebrate the 4th of July in the water. Due to regular failure of the mechanical shark or "Bruce" as it became known, Speilberg employed mere suggestion that the shark was near: barrels in the water being pulled under and use of the excellent music of John Williams. Another great film, Alien, used this technique to great effect. You didn't need to see the attacker, but you knew it was there.
The interaction between the three characters is brilliant too, partially due to Dreyfuss and Shaw's on-set dissagreement but the majority is down to the excellent acting of course.
The action rises like the peak of a wave and then smooths down into calmer waters (all puns intended). The interaction between Brody and his youngest son when imitating each other is a fantastic example of a relaxed moment. The only things which detract from this great film are its sequels, as so often happens with blockbuster films. When you mention Jaws, inevitably conversation sways onto the second, third and fourth movies, when it shouldn't. Forget the half-breed second, I struggle to acknowledge the abomination third and
ludicrous fourth, we are talking about Jaws. Not Jaws 1 or Jaws Episode 1 et.c, but Jaws.
So there you have it, that is why Jaws is my favourite film of all time. I haven't seen the Blu-ray version as of yet, but that will change and reviews suggest it is the best Blu-ray conversion yet. Oh and as for remaking or re-booting Jaws, if some studio or director really thinks he could, let me suggest this: Never mind a bigger boat, you'll need bigger everything if you even attempt it. You will fail though and it will bite you on the ass, and its a big bite with two rows of teeth.