Monday, March 4, 2013

Formal Film Study: Steven Spielberg

The three films directed by Steven Spielberg that I chose to watch were Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Schindler's List. These movies interested me very much and I wanted to analyze them more to see what kind of director Spielberg really is.

The first film I watched was Jaws, made in 1975, this film scared beach goers around the nation. The story of a small summer town Amity Island that is suddenly struck with a disastrous monster on the fourth of July. A great white shark. Now, although I have seen this film before, every time I watch it I find something I haven't before. Each time Spielberg makes it a special and entertaining movie to watch. This movie is one of Spielberg's greatest achievements earning him 260 million.

The second film I watched was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This movie was compelling, entertaining and mysterious all in one. When supposedly UFO's start to invade and kidnap loved ones, Richard Dreyfuss' character along with many others become obsessed and compelled to find out more about their close encounters. Also, a big pay out at the box office with a total of over 132 million.

The last film I watched was Schindler's List. This is a movie that will stay with you forever. It is a classic film and is popular for the way it makes you feel. It does this because it is real. Historic films such as this one, if executed well can be absolutely fantastic. The true story of the Holocaust and a man that tries with all of his might to safe some of the innocent souls from their determined fate. 

The cinematic elements of all of these movies were all different in their own way. Such as in Jaws, there were lots of underwater scenes and going from above water to under which I thought was clever of Spielberg to do. Another thing he did well in Jaws was to build suspense. There were a few scenes where you didn't know if the shark was going to attack or not and I was always nervous to see what would happen. In Close Encounters there are many cool scenes where the UFO's are invading and trying to capture someone. In these scenes the technology and editing used to make them seem real was incredible. In both of these movies the technology was used to its advantage, for both being made in the mid to late 70's they are very well executed. 

In Schindler's List there are quite a few long shots to show the camp and how Amon Goeth had such power over all of the people there. Also, there are many close up shots of when they are going to kill someone, to show the horror and terror on their faces. 

Also, a element that I noticed was the music. John Williams composed the music for both Jaws and Schindler's List, and even though it is not the biggest aspect of a movie it still plays a role. In both of the  movies the music is an essential part that makes you frightened and makes you cry. 

One message that I got from these movies was that even if you feel like you can't make a difference or change something, if you have the will you can. Such as, in Jaws, Chief Brody is terrified of the water and hesitates with every move he makes, but in the end becomes the reluctant hero. Also in Schindler's List, Schindler enjoys the high life he usually lives, but notices that he has the power to save people and he follows his heart. 

In all three of these films, the discovery I made was that Spielberg created a suspenseful "unknown" in all of these movies.  In Jaws, there is the obvious unknown of who the next victim is and also how are they going to conquer the shark. In Close Encounters, the unknown is who are these aliens and what do they want from us. Lastly, in Schindler's List, the unknown is if you are going to survive and also where are your loved ones if they are alive. 

Overall, I loved all of these movies and would recommend them to anyone who enjoys good movies and wants to see more of Spielberg's work. 


  1. Nice work here, Natalie. I liked how you quickly summarized the films and their compelling aspects, and then moved on to trends across two or three films--a great way to set this up. I especially enjoyed the second half of this, where you really get into what you noticed across the films. Even more of that would be great. One critique I've heard of for Spielberg is that he's too "cheesy" (for lack of a better word). Do you agree? What would you say to those who have this view?

    Good work!

  2. Thanks for the feedback! I don't completely agree with that critique, but I can definitely understand why some people have it. I think Spielberg has a way to create great suspense. Also, when the "main event" or character such as the shark or the aliens come in, you really get to see them and its a great shock technique that he uses to his advantage.