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Watch: 14-Minute Video Essay Deconstructs The Iconic Beach Scene From Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jaws’

Watch: 14-Minute Video Essay Deconstructs The Iconic Beach Scene From Steven Spielberg's 'Jaws'

In a brand new series from Vimeo Channel 1848 Media, Julian Palmer analyzes and deconstructs iconic scenes and moments from recognizable films, and if the debut episode is proof of what’s to come, then “The Discarded Image” is going to be a must-watch series for any cinephile.

Episode One of “The Discarded Image” examines one of the most heart-pounding scenes of the past four decades — the beach scene from “Jaws.” What’s so great about the episode (and, hopefully, the entire series) is that it doesn’t focus simply on the camera movements or blocking. Rather, the video’s scope reaches much farther. Palmer narrates a stunningly educational, information-packed quarter-hour that not only picks apart the scene in question, but does so within the context of Steven Spielberg’s work vis-à-vis other directors (most frequently Alfred Hitchcock), stylistic choices that define Spielberg’s career, his pre-production process, and his use of on-screen movement.

Palmer compares Spielberg to Hitchcock throughout the video, prompted in no small part by the following quote attributed to the older director: “Young Spielberg is the first one of us who doesn’t see the proscenium arch. He has such a nimble way of orchestrating the camera. He has the structural precision of Hitchcock, with an added gift of making the images breathe organically.” Palmer compares the directors’ penchants for fastidious storyboarding, but places emphasis on Spielberg’s willingness to improvise during production. “He instinctively knows how to dramatize an image, whilst also having the freedom to be playful.” The comparison extends frequently and specifically to “Rear Window,” which Palmer cites as the inspiration for the “point of view reaction system” Spielberg uses throughout the scene. The video also investigates the directors’ use of color in their shots — the “Jaws” example is truly fascinating to watch unfold.

From there, the video moves into its deconstruction of the actual scene, in which a little boy in a red bathing suit meets a gristly fate in the mouth of the killer great white. No little point is left uninterpreted. Palmer discusses how the camera movements Spielberg employs establish tension and introduce potential victims, while simultaneously rendering the protagonist (played by Roy Scheider) impotent against the impending danger. “The viewer has been primed for the danger, yet our lead protagonist is completely blindsided. And therein lies the initial tension in the scene, between what the audience knows, and what Brody knows.”

The brilliance of “The Discarded Image” lies not just within the points it makes, but also in the ways it lays them out. Expert editing, integrated interviews, and use of other films (by way of compare/contrast) collude to make this first episode a clear stalwart in web-based film analysis. Here’s to hoping we don’t have to wait long for Episode Two.

Watch the entire 14-minute video below. [via Reddit]

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