Saturday, 2 August 2014

Jaws

One of the first movies I remember watching in a cinema was Jaws. It must have been in the 1980s and saying that I watched it may be an exaggeration. The movie was screened in an open air cinema at a camp site in a Polish Baltic sea resort. The audio track was in English (American English to be precise). There were French subtitles whilst the camp site owner simultaneously translated the dialogue through a mic in Polish so the audience could understand what was going on. None of which was any useful to me, an 8 year old German boy. Still, the movie made an impression and I have always had a soft spot for the struggle of Chief Brody with the beast from the deep.

Whilst the first instalment of Jaws is just being released in refreshed colour and sound, my favourite Jaws is its sequel, Jaws 2. Sure, there is something Hemingwayian as Brody, perched in the lookout of the sinking Orca, delivers the final coup de grรขce to the beast. Yet, Jaws 2 seemed to add a human dimension to his man-beast confrontation that still makes for remarkable viewing, even twenty years later.

I think it is Brody's slow but inevitable decline into paranoia that makes fascinating entertainment. As he starts to see sharks everywhere, his social bearings are coming apart. An eye on a shaky photograph becomes evidence of murder in the sea and he eventually cracks up by emptying his revolver's magazine into the open sea.

Confronted by the local mayor and the local aldermen, his madness tips over the edge. Brody's paranoia becomes a problem for social and political management. At that point the movie is a study in local politics and its inability to grasp risks. As the aldermen and mayor witness Brody's behaviour they realise that they have rules for everything from voting to local enterprise yet no rule to deal with paranoia masquerading as concern.

'Nothing personal' or on the edge of insanity?
Chief Brody going for the kill in Jaws 2

The ironic twist of the movie is of course that Brody's paranoia turns out to be grounded in reality. Yet, it's too late then. He has to go it alone, just as in the first movie, one man against the incarnation of evil. In a crucial scene, a vet, disturbed by Brody's rush to judgement looks him in the eye and says: 'Sharks don't take things personal'. Well, this one does, which makes Chief Brody a perfect match. Incidentally, it also makes for bloody good viewing.

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