“So simple, insistent and driving, that it seems unstoppable, like the attack of the shark,” – that’s how composer John Williams describes the iconic motif that he devised to signal the approach the shark that terrorises the residents and holiday makers of Amnity Island in the run up to the 4th July holiday. It’s arguably the most recognisable piece of film music ever written, a few notes that have spread so far as to become synonymous with the beast at the heart of the film (and of course repeatedly hummed on beaches the world over in order to wind up nervous swimmers.) It’s little surprise then, that The Bridgewater Hall have opted to invite conductor Ben Palmer and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra to perform Williams’ score live alongside the film this April.
Jaws was, at the time of its release, the most successful film ever made and it is often credited with the dubious honor of ushering in the era of the blockbuster. But Steven Spielberg’s film is very different to the carefully managed studio blockbusters we have today. The classic men-on-a-mission structure is buoyed by razor-sharp suspense sequences – the screen-time of the shark was famously, and fortunately, limited due to technical issues which the director thanked for helping him think like Alfred Hitchcock rather than Ray Harryhausen – that build under Spielberg’s superior direction. Just as memorable are the characters who power the movie: a believably raggedy, anti-establishment trio made up of Roy Scheider’s new-to-the-island police chief Brody, Richard Dreyfuss’ determined oceanographer Hooper, and Robert Shaw’s grizzled shark hunter Quint.