Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Graduate - An Analysis

I just watched The Graduate (1967). After 45 years, what can we say about this movie? - plenty. My first impression of The Graduate was that it was funny. Everything about the seduction scene just made me laugh. Benjamin's response to the titillating seduction of an older woman is just - funny. All of that, "Mrs Robinson, this conversation is getting really weird," was just hilarious. I was shocked to discover how many times the The Graduate was referenced in other movies.

The Graduate has many enigmatic, long still shots of Benjamin's face, a kind of over-intellectual 1970's cinematography including were lengthy shots of Benjamin's stoic face whilst stared up at the sky in deep contemplation from the family swimming pool. The film was youth-centric, everything from the Simon and Garfunkle soundtrack, to the cinematography to the pop culture shock was all about the young people. The cinematography really encapsulated the distinct spirit of the late 1960's without getting too much into the weird 1970's intellectualism.







In 1967, director Mike Nichols was a pioneer in the sense that he pushed boundaries as far as society would let him push them. The Graduate pushes more than one boundary: seduction, sex, morality....and wrapping it up with the fact that Benjamin had slept with both mother and daughter.

The late sixties pushed America into a cultural shift. The idea of any relationship being entirely sexual was enough to raise an eyebrow or two. But this movie - this one - was about a young man having a relationship with a friend of his parents. Mrs. Robinson was old enough to be Benjamin's mother. For her to seduce a naive young man, the son of her friend, was scandalous. Mrs Robinson has all of the advantages of age, she knew how the world worked, she knew much more about life than Benjamin. She took advantage of a much younger man.

In many respects the film was ridiculous. For example: Benjamin fell in love with Mr. Robinson's daughter after how many dates? Was it one or two? There was never a moment when Benjamin thought, "Gosh, maybe I should not pursue Elaine on account of the fact I am diddling her mother?" Adding unlikely to ridiculous, Benjamin tracks all the way to Berkeley to stalk the daughter of his sex buddy. Come on!  I am not believing it.

I thought the church scene was hilarious and understand why it is referenced in so many movies. What kind of a man will crash a woman's wedding day by banging on the window as she stands with her husband and the priest. "Elaine! Elaine!"

Perhaps this movie isn't about 'believing it', perhaps it is just about a young man sleeping with an older woman. Are we the ones over-thinking it now?

At the Beginning, Ben just graduated from college and everyone is proud of him. At the end, when his relationship with an older married woman is revealed, he is hated. As evidence in the angry faces of those at church, the entire community hates Ben. He cannot even go home to his parents. In the beginning he is worried about his future, at the end, he knows his future. From beginning to end, Benjamin started as a protagonist and ended as the antagonist.

Mrs. Robinson was a liar. When the affair was discovered, she told her daughter Elaine that Benjamin had raped her. When Mr. Robinson came to Berkley to confront Benjamin, it appears that unlike Elaine he knew the truth, he knew his wife had been cheating on him.


Benjamin is an east coast college graduate who spends more time thinking about a situation rather than doing something to solve it. He finds himself adrift in a culture of shifting sexual and social mores, and questioning the social values (with an emphasis on "plastics" is the future)

I am not going to over-think this movie. Benjamin's mistake was over thinking his situation, so maybe we shouldn't do it either. So lets keep it light.

The Graduate is about...a graduate...who diddles a friend of his parents, then falls in love with their daughter, stalks her, breaks into a church, beats on a glass window, pisses off the world and marries the girl. Having now screwed mother and daughter he is definitely one sick little dude. Rather than over thinking it, lets just laugh and enjoy all the parodies that have come out of this movie.








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