In an age when Film Directors have every CGI tool at their disposal to enhance the dramatic effects, it is easy to overlook the power of story. One example of this is in Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster ‘Jaws’.
Shot mostly on location in Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, Jaws went over budget with an additional 100 days filming on location. It very nearly broke Spielberg’s career before it had begun. As the mechanical sharks often malfunctioned, Spielberg decided to suggest the shark's presence, employing a minimalistic theme composed by John Williams to indicate its impending appearances. But perhaps one of the most powerful scenes in the film is one of the simplest.
It begins with three men sitting around at night in the claustrophobic confines Quint’s boat cabin. They start comparing fishing scars in a scene of locker room jocularity and then slowly (and this reflects the genius of Spielberg’s direction) the drama morphs into a monologue of Shakespearean intensity as the significance of Quint’s defaced scar of ‘USS Indianapolis’ is revealed. The two men, Brody the Police Chief and Hooper the young Oceanographer, fall into an awe-filled silence as it dawns on them that irascible seadog Quint (played to bone-chilling perfection by Robert Shaw) was a survivor of the worst shark attack in human history.
For me this is perhaps the scariest scene of the movie, as it leaves everything to the imagination. There are no animatronic sharks, no screaming beachgoers, no frenzy of blood and foam - just the memory of floating in oil skimmed water for four days, while hundreds of sharks circle beneath your dangling legs and pull your shipmates down one at a time and you never know when the bell will toll for you…….