As we head toward Memorial Day, a day of remembering our fallen soldiers here in the US, and as we cross the threshold into summer (at least here below the the Mason-Dixon Line), I am already pondering not if, but when, I will watch Jaws this summer.
I can't remember the last time I saw a movie with a monologue, a real monologue, included. I don't suppose the kids these days would sit for a full two or three minutes of somebody just, you know, talking, without pulling out their cell phones and texting away. But this is from an era of filmmaking that wasn't entirely about avoiding risk, perhaps the only serious era where this occurred at the studios.
No matter how many time I watch it, Robert Shaw's speech about the sinking of the Indianapolis still hits me. Its a terrific bit of film writing and an amazing performance to match, all carried by the extremely young Steven Spielberg behind the camera.
The sinking of the Indianapolis as described by Shaw's character Quint was all too real, the details of which had only been released to the public in the few years previous to when Jaws hit theaters, and not many had heard the story.
Clearly the speech sets the motivation for Quint, that its far more than about the $10,000 plus expenses, and it gives the film's primordial man vs. nature premise a bent that supersedes Brody's duty and Hooper's scientific curiosity. And, in many ways, despite tying the film to World War II, it also manages to decouple the film from a 70's creature movie, placing it alongside Melville as a seafaring journey, a sort of tale of revenge against the very sea that gives the character meaning.
Memorial Day isn't just about car sales or a day off.
1100 men went in the water, 316 men come out. The sharks took the rest. June the 29th, 1945.