Tuesday 24 April 2018

Natalie Haynes: It was my first time seeing Jaws on the big screen ... and it ate me up and spat me out

LAST Saturday, I did something I have never been able to do before, since I was scarcely alive last time around (and my parents misprioritised, big time): I went to see Jaws at the cinema. In honour of its 37th birthday, a lovely, cleaned-up print of Jaws is showing on the big screen, and it reminded me that there was once a time when a big summer blockbuster didn't need to feature either spaceships, superheroes or magic, fond as I am of all of the above.

Jaws is a blockbuster movie with an art-house sensibility. It has big action sequences, but Carl Gottlieb, its screenwriter, once remarked that he and Spielberg used to refer to it as "Moby Dick meets Enemy of the People". I can't imagine Melville or Ibsen are high in Michael Bay's mind when he churns out another Transformers movie.

The shark in Jaws is the perfect monster: it's clever and ruthless, and because we can't see it, it acquires an air of omnipresence. We know it isn't everywhere, but the trouble is, it could be anywhere. No one is safe. Every one of our instinctive fears is jangling like our nerves, and that's before John Williams's score frays those away, too.

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