I saw ‘Jaws’ in a cinema for the first time, having grown up afraid of swimming due to repeated pan-and-scan broadcasts on probably all four of the terrestrial channels granted me in childhood, but never having the opportunity to see it projected on a canvas large enough to do it justice. I was struck by my friend and co-host’s suggestion that the story of Roy, Ricky, Bob and the shark is a Holocaust film in disguise – evoked by the the city fathers’ refusal to acknowledge the danger, the fleeing of the powerless bathers from the sea, the conversation about the delivery of the A-Bomb, and, perhaps most Freudian of all, the fact that gas is used to kill. As is often the case, my co-host impressed with his mysterious ability to find things in movies that no one has said before, or that at least don’t show up on the first page of a Google search. I’m fascinated by his suggestion that the most obvious analogue to ‘Jaws’ in Spielberg’s work may be ‘Schindler’s List’, and I’m sure we’ll talk about this on TFT soon.
It dovetails with the fact that, for me, ‘Jaws’ has become the archetypal film for representing the meaning of violence in our shared culture – there are obvious parallels between the death of the shark and the origin of the myth that order can be brought out of chaos by the application of more chaos found in ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’. In ‘Jaws’, paradise is restored through ultimate force; in that regard it looks like the story that catechises pop culture, unquestioned. So it’s troubling, and philosophically compelling. It also happens to be crafted from a rock that looks to me like the secret headquarters of perfect film grammar; so it’s an utterly compelling, character-rich tale.
I leave you with three questions:
1: What other films do you, the TFT community consider to be philosophically deeper than their reputation would suggest?
2: What films other films can you think of that end with the opposite of the climax in ‘Jaws’, with a negotiated settlement rather than killing the bad guy?
3: Where did Murray Hamilton (below) get his jackets? And does anyone know if you can buy them in Tennessee or North Carolina?