Film: The Graduate
Director: Mike Nichols
Year Released: 1967
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross
Available on Netflix Streaming: Yes
Available on Cuevana: Yes
Exactly how I mean may be the first question that pops into your head after reading that word. Don’t worry. The same thought crosses the mind of main character Benjamin Braddock, played by the wonderful Dustin Hoffman. However, taken in context with the entire film, this quote manages to summarize the entire establishment that Benjamin is fighting against. Plastics is the establishment and Benjamin is the exception. At first, it seems like that establishment manifests itself in one clear manner in The Graduate. However, there are several nuances to the theme of non-conformity in a world which demands conformity in our futures.
Even the way in which Braddock’s mind operates supports this theme. It’s really what makes The Graduate so good. All the characters are developed amazingly well and they all complement the film’s subject sensationally. Benjamin is an odd figure: well respected by all the adults and well liked by the majority of his class. He is handsome and gets along well with girls. This quality is what becomes the driving force of much of the film. In Benjamin’s desires to be different from his parents and his classmates, he ends up creating most of the action in the film.
The biggest action in this film is undoubtedly the relationship between Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson. It is an altogether unnatural and strange connection they share. Mrs. Robinson is about twice the age of Benjamin and casually demands an intimate and sexual relationship of him. Benjamin eventually follows her seductive advances, believing that Mrs. Robinson can be his way of shifting the norm. While all his friends and peers are out with their girlfriends at night and thinking about graduate schools during the day, Benjamin sneaks around during the night to visit Mrs. Robinson and drifts around on the pool during the day, apparently quite self-satisfied by his accomplishments. Not a thought is given to the future.
And that’s what creates the central conflict in The Graduate. Benjamin hardly ever realizes that by pursuing a life so vastly different from the expectation, his future becomes extremely uncertain. From the very beginning shot of Benjamin moving on the moving walkway in the airport, where the camera deftly managing to hide what is in front of Ben, to the very end shot (won’t spoil that), the film creates this sort of anxiety in the viewer. The source of this anxiety is the tremendous amount of uncertainty that Benjamin faces in his life. Had he chosen to conform to the same standards as his peers and parents, his life would surely have more of a fixed route. This uncertainty can become unbearably troubling and creates a huge dilemma in choosing the unconventional.
However, director Mike Nichols completely insults such a mind-numbing lifestyle. He instead celebrates the uncertainty that comes with life and that has come to characterize much of the youth of the day. The so called quarter life crisis that sociologists speak of today was visualized more than forty years ago by Nichols. That’s probably where this film hits home the hardest. I plan on posting a short write-up on this topic. When you watch a film (that is the actual moment in your life) can significantly alter your perception and understanding of it. Watching The Graduate again a few months leading up to graduation, I found that my appreciation of the film’s subject and themes had increased exponentially. This has happened to me repeatedly and is one of the key reasons that watching films again is by no means a waste of time. Our attitudes shift, our lives change, and we connect to different things as we grow older. Well like I stated in the film introduction a week ago, this film is an absolute must watch for college students (especially those graduating soon).
Alright, on to the music now. Simon and Garfunkel composed and performed the entire soundtrack. The hugely famous Mrs. Robinson is featured in the film and it’s catchy nature makes those moments when it plays in the film extremely fun to watch. However, the track which I find absolutely remarkable is the track which plays at both the beginning and end of the film. The Sound of Silence has some nostalgic, regretful and somewhat hopeful quality that makes it incredibly complex. The lyrical quality is top notch here and the voice of Paul Simon is legendary. He has a softness to his voice that just goes straight to the soul. The songs are fairly slow so all may not be a fan of the slower, folksy quality. However, I think that most will find the soundtrack absolutely incredible. Each song complements the onscreen action very well and also connects to the film’s central themes as well. When The Sound of Silence plays at the end…wow that scene would simply not be the same without it. One of the best examples thus far in this blog of music’s impact on film.
I really don’t want to say much more about the film. It’s one of those stories that are best left discovered and interpreted by the viewer. It’s a terrific piece by Mike Nichols and definitely is his best film. If you are a college student and you don’t feel an ounce of what Ben feels, well then I honestly feel sorry for you. This is a film that will be relevant for years on end! Check it out!
Some of the great music: