The Magic Lantern

Hosted ByEricca Long and Cole Roulain

Exploring the films we love and the things we love about them.

The Magic Lantern: Episode 112 – Jaws

Are you still afraid to go into the water? Does the specter of a killer shark still haunt you, 44 years after that monster first broke the water’s surface in Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)? It absolutely haunts me, though I love the water and still take every opportunity to get in it. Just like I still take every opportunity to watch this movie again and again!

When we are deciding on our film selections, especially with well-known titles, we question whether there is anything new to discuss and whether we will notice anything new after the umpteenth viewing. The great news with great films like Jaws is that we do find new avenues to explore. We closely explored its legacy, its themes, and its composition. We continue to marvel at how individual artists formed a team with Steven Spielberg on just his second feature film to deconstruct and reconstruct a story that shows no signs of losing its power to delight and scare us.

Take a moment to appreciate what Spielberg and company were able to accomplish in what would become the seventh highest-grossing film in the U.S. and Canada of all time: the most oft-quoted lines from the film were largely improvised, the shark only appears for a handful of minutes in the film, and first appears roughly two-thirds of the way through, the script was still unfinished as shooting began, and I’ll say it again–it was only Spielberg’s second feature film!

What you’ll find in this episode: the composition of threes used throughout the film, why the film stays interesting after all these years, and Ericca displays her full Virginia accent at one point.

– Ericca

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Jaws on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of All the President’s Men.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Duel.
Finding Bruce the Shark.
How Peter Benchley came to regret his creation.

2 comments on The Magic Lantern: Episode 112 – Jaws

  1. I think my little brother and I probably did watch this 44 times every summer when we were growing up. I recently realized my son is the same age my brother was when we began our ritualistic Jaws viewings, so I watched it with him a few weeks ago. This was my first viewing in some time, but I was happy to see Jaws is still just as great as ever. I like how you broke the three protagonists down (if we’re counting Quint as a protagonist) into archetypes. I’ve never consciously thought of that, but it makes sense…my brother and I (and my sister, once we brought her into it) always thought Quint was reminiscent of our dad, but thinking of Quint archetypally, he’s almost like a Merlin figure, where the magic passes from the world when he dies. Your conversation about the famous Indianapolis scene also made me think of things slightly differently, in that Quint most likely did always feel like he’d just prolonged his eventual death by shark back in WWII–he’s essentially just been living his own private long-form horror film for the last 30 years, which he knows ends in some shark’s welcoming jaws. By this point, judging by the way he keeps sabotaging any form of escape or backup-calling, he most definitely just wants it to end.
    Also, it’s funny you say that the ending is absurd because my son was very much enjoying the film (he’s only nine, but begs to watch horror films, and doesn’t seem to be rattled or even startled by anything), but said afterward, “That ending was kind of weird.” When I asked “How so,” he just responded, “I don’t know. It was weird. Everything after Quint got eaten was weird.”
    And finally, I am so happy you mentioned the shooting star! That’s one of my favorite throwaway shots in any film. Spielberg’s got another shooting star shot in Temple of Doom, when Indy and Short Round are talking on a hill side, before they set off for Pankot Palace. I feel like in both cases, it’s a winking “Things are about to get really dark, but everything’s gonna be alright.” But also magic. My son loved Temple of Doom, too.

  2. Cole Roulain says:

    Thanks, Nic! Glad you enjoyed it! I think you’re really onto something when you say ritualistic. That’s definitely what I had in mind when we were talking about the process of this going from frightening to being an odd sort of comfort through repetition. Also, it applies when you’re talking about this generational handoff with your son. It’s an eternal tradition. I can see this going all the way back to the flickering fire and shadows on the cave wall. Some stories are just so good you can tell or hear them over and over again. This is definitely one of those.

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