The scene is certainly an attention getter for the audience, as we don’t see exactly what attacked Chrissie. One of the most interesting aspects (in my opinion) is how it was accomplished. So how exactly was it pulled off by Spielberg and his crew?
In many of the shark attack scenes in the film, the original plan was for the audience to actually see the shark. However, due to the many mechanical problems with the robotic shark (named “Bruce”), Spielberg was forced to use the camera to simulate the point-of-view of the shark. This most likely ended up actually “saving” the film and helped it become such a success. In the opening scene, however, Spielberg had decided up front to not show the shark to the audience. He noted, “I thought that what could really be scary was not seeing the shark and just seeing the water; because we all are familiar with the water---very few of us have been in the water with a shark, but we’ve all gone swimming. And the idea of this girl going swimming and the audience going swimming with her would’ve been too extraordinary if, like a leviathan, the shark had come out of the water with its jaws agape and had come down on her…it would’ve been a spectacular opening for the film. But there would’ve been nothing primal about it—it would just have been a ‘monster moment’ that we’ve all seen” (Making of Jaws). Ultimately, during the attack, Spielberg wanted the audience to imagine what was happening underneath, rather than showing it. This ended being a fantastic technique, as one’s imagination can really run wild and think of just about anything that is attacking the character.
To accomplish the side-to-side “thrashing” from the shark, cables on either side were attached to Backlinie and run to two pilings. The cables were then run to the beach, where 5-6 men on each line would pull the cables by running back and forth to two different marks placed on the beach. To ensure Backlinie’s safety, she was outfitted with a special string that she could pull to release herself from the cables that were pulling her.
Written by Anthony Watkins
Jaws. Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Prod. David Brown and Richard B. Zanuck. 1975. Special Edition Blu-Ray. Universal Pictures, 1975.
IMDB. 2014. 01 March. 2014. <http://www.imdb.com>.
Below you will find the opening scene of Jaws.