Everything it takes to evoke an instant sense of danger in anyone who watched Jaws is two notes, separated by a semitone, ingeniously deployed to indicate the imminent threat of a great white shark.
But now, nearly half a century later, director Steven Spielberg has admitted the Oscar-winning 1975 thriller may have been too effective at evoking the fear of vilified creatures, admitting he “really” regrets any influence that he had on the rapidly changing world. decline in the shark population.
Since the early 1970s, the global population of oceanic sharks and rays has fallen by 71% due to overfishing, according to a global study published in Nature found last year.
“I really regret and to this day the decimation of the shark population because of the book and the movie. I really, really regret it,” said the American director Desert Island Discswhich will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday.
Asked by presenter Lauren Laverne how he would feel if sharks surrounded him if he were sent to the show’s imaginary desert island, the 75-year-old said: ‘It’s one things I still fear. Not to get eaten by a shark, but to have the sharks kind of mad at me for the crazy sport fisherman feeding frenzy that happened after 1975.”
According to the IUCN Global Red List of Threatened Species, more than a third of all shark species are threatened with extinction, while three-quarters of oceanic shark species are threatened.
But Paul Cox, chief executive of the Shark Trust in Plymouth, said that although shark populations have declined significantly since the film was released, to blame Jaws it’s “giving way too much credit to the film”.
Most people, he believes, are able to discern between life and cinemas.
“The cases of shark population declines are very clearly overfishing of the fisheries,” he said.
While the demand for shark fin has declined in recent years, the desire for shark meat is on the rise.
Where Jaws perhaps had an impact, however, is to muddy the messages around sharks, Cox said: “It led conversations into a bit of a trap by spending too much time talking about all the things that sharks aren’t. not rather than of all great what are sharks.
He is, however, grateful for the positive public relations provided by Spielberg’s comments. “For someone with their stardom, taking on the challenge of communicating about sharks in a more positive way is very welcome.”
The film taps into a pre-existing fear, he said. “It’s a natural fear that we have of the unknown. The sea, the marine environment, still has many unknowns.
Harley Street phobia specialist Christopher Paul Jones is convinced of the film’s power. Most of the people he meets with galeophobia, or fear of sharks, return to films such as Jaws because most people have never seen a shark except in an aquarium.
“It’s a testament to how it was done. You can’t see underwater and the music creates a sense of fear,” he said. “Films are very good at touching all the senses – visual, aural and can have a very big impact on how we feel.”
He said movies like Jaws are often “the seed of emotion”. “People will come to me – maybe it’s not fear of sharks but fear of swimming or water. When you look at how it started, it can be Jaws.”
In other Desert Island Discs admission, Spielberg said filmmakers shouldn’t “manipulate” audiences by playing on their emotions, but admitted he was guilty of it in Jaws. “A filmmaker should never manipulate the audience unless every scene has some sort of jack-in-the-box fear. That’s manipulation,” he said. done several times Fighting spirit and i sure did once Jaws, where the head comes out of the hole. It’s good, I admit it.”
Among his Desert Island records were Bach’s “Little” Fugue in G minor, which his father used to whistle when he came home from work; What the world needs now is love from Jackie DeShannon, who he says makes him “want to kiss a Republican”; and a song by his daughter, Sasha, whose stage name is Buzzy Lee. The song, Coolhand, reminds him of “the privilege of parenthood,” he said. His luxury item would be a vintage Bolex H-8 camera.
He spoke of childhood memories – including directing a three-minute western for a Boy Scout badge, his mother dancing around the house and his 15-year estrangement from his father after his parents divorced.
Spielberg, many of whose other films include the blockbusters HEY, IndianaJonesand jurassic parkfeared that his latest project, a semi-autobiographical film titled The Fabelmanswould be “the most complacent thing I’ve ever asked people to accompany me”.
Describing the project, starring Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, as “40 million dollars in therapy”, he said: “I didn’t really know what I was doing except that I was fulfilling a need I had – being orphaned or recently orphaned by the loss of both parents, to reclaim some of those memories in a way that wouldn’t seem too forgiving to the actors that I really respected. So that was a tightrope for a while.
But the film has already garnered plenty of critical acclaim and Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award nominations.
He said he didn’t mind being seen as sentimental and nostalgic, adding: “I think it’s nostalgia even more than sentimentality, but I never bristle when I hear that unless don’t anybody say it ruined the movie for them…I don’t like it.”