Classic Film: The Graduate, Essay Example

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Introduction

The Graduate was a film produced in 1967 as an American comedy drama. Directed by Mike Nicholls the film focused on one Benjamin Braddock (the graduate played by actor Dustin Hoffman).  Benjamin was a recent graduate who was aimless in life and ultimately became seduced by an older woman – Mrs. Robinson (played by actress Anne Bancroft).  This sees Benjamin wasting his summer by floating around in a pool during the day and having encounters with Mrs. Robinson is hotels at night.  Benjamin ultimately sees the futility of this affair and realises they have nothing in common. Benjamin then begins an affair with Mrs. Robinsons daughter, despite her forbidding this, at first Benjamin treats the daughter Elaine (played by actress Katherine Ross),  with disrespect and cruelty.  Despite this they reconcile and begin an affair. Benjamin is forced to tell Elaine about the prior affair with her mother and in disgust Elaine moves to Berkeley, CA.  Benjamin is determined to marry Elaine and follows her to Berkeley.  Ultimately the two reconcile after Benjamin tells his side of the story and how Mrs. Robinson perused and seduced him.

The family try to force Elaine to marry Carl and Ben rushes back to Pasadena to intervene only to find the wedding has been moved to Santa Barbara.  Ben arrives just in time to stop the wedding and Elaine flees from the church with him to a waiting bus.  The two are seen to move away in the back of the bus.  They are happy to be reunited but nervous about their uncertain future together.

The film was considered a classic of the period because of its depiction of the upper middle class of America at the time, particularly focusing on the Beverly Hills social structure.

Film overview

The film depicts the affluent lifestyle of the American upper class that lived in the swanky district of Beverly Hills in California.  Ben was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and the concept of affluence left him aimless with no real ambition or motivation in life.  It contrasts the immature behaviour of Ben with that of an equally immature society that is bored despite having wealth and affluence.  The affairs of Mrs. Robinson being an example of thrill seeking to enhance an otherwise spoiled lifestyle.  The film somewhat depicts the great American dream but points out in clear terms that money, wealth and affluent lifestyle does not necessarily provide you with happiness.  A lot of the people in this class are shallow, superficial people with little to do other than try to impress one another with their affluence.  It offers a stark contrast to the middle class Americans and even bleaker reality to the poor working classes of America.

Anne Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson) also depicts the dilemma of the older wealthy woman that is growing older and needs to recapture her youth.  Another trait that is depicted amongst the more affluent sectors of rich American society.  The music of Simon and Garfunkel put this into perspective as the young person’s music and illustrates the difference between Elaine, Ben and Mrs. Robinson.  The film illustrates the need of the upper class to perpetuate their image and maintain the status quo by trying to force the marriage of Elaine to Carl.  Ben being seen as socially unacceptable.  The film is now somewhat dated but it provided rather a vulgar aspect of the upper class life in rich California during the 1960’s.  The film was later selected by the US National Film Registry for preservation and archiving as being culturally significant.

Cinematography

The film was nominated for a number of Oscars including cinematography.   The film introduced the power of the telephoto lens and showed Ben running at speed in order to catch up with Elaine. Despite his efforts the telephoto made it appear that he would never catch up.  They used the technique called ‘the jump cut’ in editing which spliced two scenes together i.e. Ben jumping into the raft on the pool and then jumping into bed with Mrs. Robinson.  The film provided the backdrop for a great musical score performed by Simon and Garfunkel. They were huge stars during this period and the film showcased two of their great hits ‘The Sound of Silence’ and ‘Scarborough Fair’.  The film also used the concept of blurring.  Taking pictures of people and moving them out of focus.  This was used with great effect when showing Elaine being shocked by the story of Ben and her Mother.

Personal Reflection

When I first watched the film I found it mildly entertaining and more in the genre of a ‘coming of age’ story.  It was well acted particularly by Bancroft and Hoffman and the music score by Simon and Garfunkel was cleverly interwoven with the composition of the film.  By modern standards the film is a bit pedestrian but it certainly provides a good depiction of the lifestyle and attitude of the rich Californian elite of Beverly Hills.  A lot of this is perpetuated today but it lacks the vulgarity of the time period.  I would hardly describe the film as a classic compared to films like Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, etc.  The film achieved BAFTA awards and Mike Nichols got the Oscar from the Academy for Best Director.

The film was placed in the comedy/drama genre and in reality it was more of a comedy than a serious drama.  I found the film entertaining but it would not be a film that I would retain and would watch again.  Certain films are timeless and it is this distinction that makes them classic films. Casablanca being a perfect example.

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