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Dinner: Brody, Hooper and Ellen

The dinner scene serves a number of narrative functions. 1. It pretty much convinces Brody that Amity still has a shark problem and the Tiger shark needs to be cut open (if Hooper’s credentials needed further reinforcing, he charms Ellen with a story about how his life-long obsession with sharks began). 2. It tells us some stuff about sharks — most shark attacks happen in three feet of water, ten feet from the beach, sharks hunt in one spot till the feeding dries up — that ramps up the fear factor — that they mostly come from Brody key us into how this is turning into an obsession. 3. It reinforces Brody’s fear of the water or “drowning”. 4. And most importantly it cements the idea that Brody and Hooper are bonding. “How was your day?” deadpans Hooper, having watched him being slapped by Mrs Kintner in the previous scene. “Swell,” comes the retort. The “How was your day?” is interesting: it’s what wives in TV sit-coms of the ‘50s traditionally asked husbands in response to “Hi Honey! I’m home!” Hooper and Brody are becoming a married couple right in front of the real Mrs Brody.

Spielberg reinforces this idea visually. While the early chit-chat is played out in a wide three shot, as talk focuses on our shark, Spielberg comes in for over the shoulder shots that exclude Ellen.


 


 

It also has lovely bits of acting business too; Dreyfuss’ pause as he is about to tuck into Brody’s left over dinner; Gary’s (flirty?) embarrassment at suggesting Hooper “is in sharks”; Scheider pouring the red wine into a water glass and Hooper’s two fingered indication to Brody that he’s filled the wine glass. (There have been theses written on the depictions of class in Jaws, including whole chapters on Brody’s mishandling of wine vs. Hooper’s knowledge to let it breathe. Discuss.). Brody also breaks cinematic records for fiddling with the top of a wine bottle. But then he can do anything. He’s the chief of police.

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1 Love it!!
Have to say though I think the best scene involving three characters in Jaws is the scene over dinner with Brody, Ellen and their youngest son. With Ellen looking on, their son (Michael I think?!) impersonates his father in a scene that is visually beautiful, stunningly played by all and almost heartbreaking at the same time. As a father myself the line "Give me a kiss"; "why?"..."because I need it!" is perfectly toned and written. It could have been to his wife, that it's to his youngest son is pure genius, VERY Spielberg and always brings a tear to my eye :) More

Posted by waltham1979 on Thursday September 6, 2012, 17:07

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