Steven Spielberg, 1975
A fishing expedition goes wrong.
Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) leaves New York City to become Amity Island’s chief of police, hoping he will be able to enjoy his pre retirement quietly. Unfortunately for him, he has to investigate the death of Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie) caused by a shark. This shark turns out to be a great white. It gives a lot more troubles than expected by killing several people, including a dog. To the point it compromises the holiday season. Tourists may not want to go for a swim so much if that means they can lose their legs in the process. The mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) first denies the situation but then decides to take action to prevent a potential bankrupcy.
Martin Brody, supported by scientist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), has the money to hire Quint (Robert Shaw), a shark psycho killer with a strong character. The trio goes fishing together but quickly becomes hunted by the great white.
Hooper fails at poisoning the shark and hides as deep as he can so the shark forgets about him. Quint got killed. The boat sinks. Chief Brody, the man who is afraid of water, is eventually the one who shoots the monster.
He and Hopper can now swim peacefully to the coast.
Jaws is about the fear of the unknown.
The shark drives everyone crazy because it’s an invisible threat. It leaves no trace. No one knows what it is. No one sees it coming. No one wants to see it, like the mayor who initially pretends this story is being made up.
But you don’t have that tooth…
The shark lies beneath the surface. It hits often at night. It turns blue into red and transforms the entire ocean in a gigantic minefield. It literally kills the fun as no one dares to go play in the water anymore. The less we see, the more we fear. It’s like some kind of a terrorist impossible to anticipate or predict. We feel totally vulnerable. The shark is a symbol of death. That explains why our fear grows exponentially, which leads us to call the ambulance.
We’re going to need a bigger boat.
Fear seems irrational. For example it’s difficult to explain why some people jump on the table when they see a spider on the ground, no matter the size.
It doesn’t make any sense when you pay a guy like you to watch sharks.
Well, uh, it doesn’t make much sense for a guy who hates the water to live on an island either.
Actually, we don’t need a bigger boat. We need to understand the root. There’s often an explanation. Brody almost drowned when he was a kid, which is why he doesn’t like water. And Quint almost got killed when he survived the USS Indianapolis. That’s why he wants to kill all the sharks on the planet and he runs away as soon as he feels he got some resistance.
This trio is like one man facing the unknown : We try to be rational like Hooper, determined like Quint or scared like Brody. Science fails. Bravery got eaten alive. Brody is the one who has to face the danger by himself. He needs to look at death in the eyes. This is the moment of truth, when we’re alone with our fear but manage to dominate it. This is when we transcend himself. Learning to live with it so it doesn’t kill us. Brody makes it disappear. When he swims back to the coast, Brody is probably not at ease. But at least he’s no longer paralyzed.
Is it better to go hiking? What about bears? Do we really need a bigger boat?
This publication reflects the views only of the author.