This week LSFM Principal Lecturer Nigel Morris led a Symposium to mark the 40th Anniversary of Jaws (1975) directed by Steven Spielberg. Academics examined how Jaws changed the ‘global cinematic landscape.’ Lizzy Allen from the University of Lincoln Press & Media spoke to Nigel, a leading scholar on the works of Spielberg, about one of Hollywood’s most influential films:
The thriller about a man-eating shark which attacks a summer seaside resort was released on 20th June 1975. It is celebrated as the first global blockbuster, becoming the first film to break the $100 million box office barrier.
Forty years after its release Nigel Morris, Principal Lecturer in the School of Film & Media at the University of Lincoln (UK) was the keynote speaker at Jaws: The Symposium, which took place at De Montfort University in Leicester on Wednesday 17th June. It was a one-off symposium exploring the film’s far-reaching impact. Other film scholars from around the world also gave papers which examined Jaws from a variety of differing viewpoints including its place in legend, nostalgia and gender politics.
Nigel said: “Jaws is seen, rightly or wrongly, as the movie that changed cinema history. It changed the way Hollywood worked and became the first contemporary blockbuster – but this wasn’t intentional. The movie happened to be both a fine piece of entertainment and a masterly demonstration of cinematic craft, and it came along in the right place at the right time.
Jaws is a relic from another era, but it seems as fresh now and it works just as well as ever. The movie works because it’s not just shark attack piled upon shark attack, but because it alternates light and dark, comedy and horror, action and contemplation, human drama and archetypal raw conflict – it is a consummate piece of filmmaking.”
Nigel is the author of the 2007 book, The Cinema of Steven Spielberg: Empire of Light (London: Wallflower Press), and the Project Editor of The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Steven Spielberg (forthcoming 2015/16).
He also convened the first international conference on the work of Steven Spielberg at the University of Lincoln, and guest edited a Spielberg special edition of The New Review of Film and Television Studies.
Nigel’s extensive work in this area has examined Jaws in the context of Spielberg’s other blockbuster films. He said: “Spielberg continues to return to Jaws. Although he refused to get involved with a sequel, he has referenced Jaws in many of his later movies, which suggests he sees it as more than just a highly profitable job of work. Jurassic Park was Spielberg’s return to the monster thriller picture, but it worked by having its own special qualities. The legacy of Jaws is so far-reaching, and that is why we are still discussing and celebrating the film four decades after its release.”