A structural overview of Jaws (Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb, Novel by Peter Benchley 1975)
Steven Spielberg first drew me into movies with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, back in 1977.
Because I was too young for Jaws in 1975, it wasn’t until later when I discovered the movie that really made Spielberg.
Jaws literally changed the movie industry as its tremendous success not only started the ‘wide opening’ with over 500 theatres, it also launched the summer season as the most profitable movie season in the US.
The structure below is an attempt to break the film down into its acts and sequences. I would welcome comments as you may or may not agree with this breakdown.
Some turning points are more obvious than others. The films Mid Point (of No Return) is beautifully emphasised with a long shot zooming into the ocean. The end of Act One and Two, however, are less obvious and you may have good reasons to see them differently. Please let me know.
Finally, like any other structural breakdown on this site, it is absolutely essential to view the film as the summaries below won’t make much sense without the context of the actual movie scene.
01.00 Night beach party by campfire
03.00 Girl skinnydipping, boy is too drunk
03.30 POV shark
04.00 Girl taken
05.00 Breakfast, Brodys are strangers in town: concerned for kids.
06.00 Phone call. Wife: Be careful. Brody: In this town??
07.00 Brody with boy on beach: they find girl, is crab meat (I.I.)
08.30 Brody types report, minor office stuff
10.00 Buys sign, paint, orders to paint signs to close beach.
11.30 Mayor protests on ferry, your 1st summer, need summer dollars!
13.00 Watching the beach. “not an islander”
16.00 Dog taken, blood, everybody out. Alex Kintner is gone.
17.30 Town meeting, close beaches for 24hs. Brody: didn’t agree.
20.00 Quint’s proposal: $10,000 to bring it in.
ACT TWO A
21.30 Brody reads on sharks. Sees Mikey in boat, parents fight.
23.30 Quint throwing bait.
24.30 Broday reading: images of sharks & victims
25.30 Charlie falls in, almost taken
26.30 Matt Hooper arrives, wants to see girl’s remains first.
29.00 Ocean posse, everybody out in their boats for bounty.
30.00 post-mortem: no boating accident, was a shark.
31.30 Tiger shark caught. Hooper wants to cut open. Mayor: No.
34.30 Mrs Kintner hits Brody: you knew about girl, about shark.
36.30 Home, Mikey copies Brody. Give us a kiss. I need it.
37.30 Dinner stories. Hooper LOVES sharks. Brody HATES water.
41.30 Cut open shark. Nothing. Go see it in the ocean.
43.30 Boat, Brody about NY & Amity: one man can make difference.
45.00 Fish finder equipment, they find Ben Gardner’s boat.
47.00 Matt dives in, finds tooth and head.
48.30 Great white, no tooth. Mayor: beaches stay open for WE.
51.30 Tourists pour in, boats are patrolling.
54.00 Mayor tells people to go in the water, helicopter (DI)
55.00 Brody tells Mikey to go in the pond
56.00 Mayor lies in interview: all fine
57.00 Shark alert: false alarm, boys prank.
59.00 Shark going into the pond, grabs man
60.30 Mikey dragged out, dead? In shock. Zoom on ocean. (MPNR)
61.30 Hospital: take him home. Wife: to NY?
62.30 Mayor says sorry, signs voucher for Quint.
63.30 Quint vs. Hooper. Q. wants to go alone.
66.30 Goodbye to wife, getting ready. “Gone fishing.”
ACT TWO B
69.30 On ocean, near accident and warning about compressed air.
71.30 Fishing reel moves, pulling. Q.: very big. Hooper: no shark.
76.00 Quint bossing. Hooper hates it. Don’t have to take abuse.
77.30 Chief throws bait, head of shark appears.
78.00 25-footer. 3 tons, is circling boat.
80.00 Q. is radio’ed by Brody’s wife, tells her all is fine.
80.30 Shark harpooned, takes barrel, disappears.
82.30 Chief wants to quit, get bigger boat. Sunset.
83.00 Q. & Hooper compare scars, drink.
86.00 Quint’s shark story of the Indianapolis, ’45.
89.30 Whale song, singing together, bonding.
90.30 Boat under attack, start engines, shark leaves.
92.30 Barrel back, they rope it in, shark appears.
94.00 Brody: Mayday. Quint kills radio.
95.00 Hook up another barrel, harpooned & taken by shark.
96.00 Shark is chasing boat, harpooned, 2 barrels & shooting.
97.30 Shark attack
99.30 Shark eats rope, coming closer, more shooting, 3 barrels.
100.0 Shark tows boat, Quint cuts rope
102.3 Decision to head in towards shallow waters.
104.0 Quint at full power, bearings burned, stopped & fire.
105.0 Stuck, sinking & waiting
106.0 Hooper’s plan: goes into cage with poison.
108.0 shark attacks & fight with Hooper.
111.0 Pull him up! The winch breaks, the cage stays down
112.0 Shark attacks boat, it starts sinking, Quint is taken.
113.0 Brody alone, bull fight, throws tank into shark’s mouth.
114.0 Brody shoots the tank, shark explodes
115.0 Shark sinks to the sea bed.
116.0 Hooper resurfaces.
117.0 Two men swimming to land with the two barrels.
115.3 Shark dies.
116.0 Hooper returns
117.0 Swimming with barrels
Under the surface of this suspenseful monster movie there is a powerful character journey. I once believed this movie is simply about Brody overcoming his fear of water. It is about much more than that.
Brody escaped the hazards of hardcore NY police work to find peace in Amity, where “one man can make a difference”.
But is he ready to make a difference?
When his wife tells him to be careful, he replies: “on this island?”. He is minimising any dangers before they even occur.
Brody is also dealing with symptoms rather than tackle the causes head-on. He tells his son not to play on the swings rather than reparing them. In the same way he tells his wife not to use the fireplace in the den before he goes out on the sea.
In the course of the story, Brody will learn to dig to the heart of the problem and resolve it at the root.
– Read the part about Jaws in this blog post for a brief introduction to the difference between a character’s WANT, NEED and LONGING.
– Read this blog post about what Jaws would look like if it were made today. Warning: not serious.
– ‘Jaws’ took a bite out of movie history 35 years ago this week.