Arr!!! There once was a time when all that there was to fear in the water were swashbuckling pirates and Neptune’s wrath. However, Steven Spielberg’s movie masterpiece, Jaws, added Sharks right next to Redbeard on the list of oceanic fears. But what made Jaws such an effective work of art? Why the camera work of Mr. Spielberg, of course! Canted angles, close ups, zooms, zollys, pans, frames, and all the cuts you can imagine; they all made Jaws an effective piece of technical art.
Imagine you’re sitting on a park bench, and something horrible is going on about 20 meters in front of you (a fire, a car crash, et cetera). What would be more frustrating and suspenseful? A clear view, or people walking in front of you, making it difficult to clearly view the situation? I’d image that you’d pick the option with the people walking about. Now how would one transfer this to a film? Well, you’d just have legs, people, and black figures creating wipes across the screen. You, along with the character in the film, want to see more, want the people to just get out of the way. It’ll get you on the edge of your seat, which is exactly what the type of shot is meant to do.
Now one thing that I enjoyed about Jaws, was the lack of canted angles, or at least, canted angles so subtle, that you’d only realise them if you were analysing the film as close as possible. The purpose of the canted angle, of course, is to imply that something isn’t quite right, that something is about to go wrong. It’s like looking at a painting tilted to one side: it’s just isn’t right. This gives the viewer that sense of uneasiness, which is fitting, as we saw these canted angles usually when a shark attack was about to commence.
Framing, perhaps one of my most favourite angles; it always bears some significance in relation to the situation the said framed character is in, or will be in. In Jaws, as Chief Brody, Quint, and Hooper disembark on their voyage, we see them from behind a window, and they are framed inside the jaws of a shark and windowpanes. The meaning behind this frame is that they are trapped (as the window frame resembles prison bars), and that they will indeed have an encounter with the shark, and one of them might not make it back to shore alive.
Ah, the zolly. This movie features, without question, the most famous zolly in film history. We see Chief Brody tensely lounging on the beach, observing the swimmers, watching for any danger of a shark. In this scene, we see numerous wipes (as I mentioned previously), a quick jump cut, featuring children splashing about in the water (which created that suspenseful, tense feeling), and the zolly. Up from the deep, a dorsal fin appears, and is headed straight for the portly woman on the raft. Right at that moment, we have our famous zolly; such a strange film technique, which creates the same kind of effect as a canted angle, but more in your face and noticeable.
There we have it, the effect of angles in Jaws.