Scene Is Believing: The Graduate

“Montage, gotta have a montage.” So mocked Team America, but sometimes a montage can illuminate and encapsulate a film’s themes in a single sublime sequence. There are several themes to The Graduate: rebellion vs conformity, the obvious sex comedy, Oedipal rage even; but it is also about youthful lassitude, ennui. The miracle is how brilliantly this is all contained in the following sequence, soundtracked only by the haunting music of Simon and Garfunkel.

Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has returned to his affluent parents home in Southern California after College, unsure what to do next. “Plastics,” his father advises as a career path. In a real sense, he already lives in a plastic world of suburban emasculation. He eventually gives in to an affair with his parents friend Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft). He becomes as bored as Mad Men’s Don Draper, though nowhere near as wordly. Director Mike Nichols depicts the progression of the affair with a montage that also reveals how Benjamin remains in situ, never growing or learning, hemmed in by the shallowness and hypocrisy of his older lover and parents.

From a black screen, “The Sounds Of Silence” begins to play, and we open on Benjamin, floating sunbathing in his parents pool. The darkness of the lyrics, of alienation and anxiety, contrast with the bright, sun dappled blue water and Benjamin’s healthy, Californian tan. He gets out, throws on a shirt and walks into the pool house. The scene cuts to inside, he’s now in a hotel room. He lays on the bed, and Mrs Robinson begins to unbutton his shirt. The interplay between them is mechanical. The camera zooms in on him, his face a mask, then pulls back to Benjamin now standing in the TV den of his home. He shuts the door on his mother and father, who “hear without listening”, sitting next door at the dinner table.

The music now switches to “April, comes She Will”; Benjamin is now back in a hotel, staring into space while drinking post coitus on the bed. Mrs Robinson bustles around, the deed done, her face unseen. Another transition occurs, where Benjamin exits his own bedroom, goes down the stairs, past his mother in the kitchen; another WASP like Mrs Robinson. Benjamin is rebelling against his father by sleeping with a mother substitute at night, and hanging around the pool, or womb substitute, by day. The Freudian link is strengthened by the close of the sequence: Benjamin dives into the pool, launches onto the airbed, and cuts to falling on top of Mrs Robinson in bed. Throughout, Benjamin has tried unsuccessfully to rebel, over days, weeks, who knows? “A love once new has now grown old,” the lyrics state. By the end of the sequence, time has moved on, but he has not.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2012-03-16 07:58:16. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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