This particularly terrifying scene from Steven Spielberg’s 1975 Jaws is only one of many that have us on the edge of our seats. The editing in Jaws, which won the Oscar for its category, shows how a certain formula of shots can greatly heighten our suspense. In this scene, Hooper is being sent down in a shark cage in hopes to inject the beast with strychnine nitrate. He is lowered to the depths using elliptical editing, as we do not see his entire descent nor the process of cranking him down. What follows is a series of longer shots as he adjusts his glasses. He is peering into the blue abyss and as we see the open water ourselves, we assume we are adapting to his point of view. This is an example of spatial editing as we relate the open water with him. In the same way, a short cut of a view above the surface shows the barrels, which are harpooned to the shark, heading towards the boat. This implies that the shark is heading towards the cage, which is already working up our suspense.
As the shark passes Hooper, we have a false sense of relief. He resumes looking into the depths watching the shark swim away. As the shark disappears, and the cuts are still long and drawn out, we anticipate that something else may happen. A cut to Hooper unplugging the harpoon is a bit of foreshadowing until suddenly a quick shot showing the shark lunging at the cage behind him startles both him and the audience. We can infer that he dropped the harpoon as an image appears of the spear falling to the depths, which is another example of spatial relation. Finally, as the scene progresses, the shark attacks the cage repeatedly. We see fast edits between wide shots of the scene, close-ups of the shark hammering the cage, and his eyes in the goggles. As the short shots continue to accelerate, maintaining this rhythm, our suspense is at a high. He begins to jab at the shark with a knife that also is speeded up between each stab. The shark is relentless and vicious. Elliptical editing helps accelerate this effect also, as the shark is never seen rearing back, but only lunging forwards. This is only one scene of several of which this technique is used to create strong suspense.