Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Writing with bite – Nick Green

My favourite scene in the film JAWS doesn’t involve the shark at all. It’s the scene in which Brody, Hooper and Quint are talking in the boat’s cabin. The highlight of their drunken chat is when the macho Quint and the nerdy Hooper are comparing their scars. The irony is that they are surprisingly evenly matched. At first it looks as if Brody can’t join in (Brody with his water phobia is unlikely to have many shark bites to date). But then he tentatively exposes a scar on his torso, only to change his mind and hide it. This fleeting gesture tells a whole story in itself. The scar is (we presume) a gunshot wound from his former life as a city cop, which is what sent him out here to Amity in the first place, in search of a quiet life (oh, the irony). It reminds us that there are sharks on land too, and that Brody is at least equal to his shipmates – in fact he probably outdoes them as a survivor (an important plot point). But crucially, unlike them, he won’t brag about his scar, because he is also a family man and thus values his life more. For him, life and death are a serious business. In short, that single two-second gesture confirms him finally as the hero of the whole piece, the valiant everyman who will slay the monster in the end. The others just don’t have the gravitas.

Moments like this can make up for all the dodgy special effects in the world. It’s something that film directors – and all writers – would do well to remember.

1 comment:

Lee said...

Good film directors do remember this - and much more. Try Minghella on Minghella or Ondaatje's The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film for a start.