Essay title: The Graduate
“Mrs. Robinson, you are trying to seduce me,” says Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman). The film The Graduate is an epic piece that captures the spirit of the times, and allows Americas youth to perceive onscreen an image of themselves which they can both identify with and emulate. The graduate is a timeless romantic comedy with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The aspect ratio is significant due to its broad range of visibility. The graduate is a significant film even today due to its use of abstract camera angles, telephoto lenses, excellent cinematography, and great acting. Few visual effects were used, however, matting and numerous point of view shots were used. These characteristics and the fabulous use of mis-en-scene, great writing and the era of the film all made the graduate what it is today, magnificent.
Benjamin Braddock is at a crossroads in his life. He has just graduated college which means he has reached adulthood and must decide what to do with his life. The problem is Benjamin is too immature to handle it. He is passive and watches the world around him move on. Ben prefers to laze around in his parent’s pool rather than consider graduate school or finding good quality job. He is beginning to realize that the path his parents have chosen for him isnt the one he wishes to follow. He is lost young man in search of high dreams, self discovery, and is frightened by the thought of becoming a man.
The film’s opening sequence, as the credits are being shown; establish one of the central theme’s that is found throughout the shots, and the rest of the film. The introduction of the film introduces the theme of self discovery. As the credits are being shown Dustin Hoffman is standing on an escalator being carried along as he collects his thoughts. The camera is positioned to reveal Ben’s left profile while the frame height is a medium close shot allowing Ben’s image to dilute in the viewers mind. In this profile shot, the character is positioned to the right third of the frame to allow sufficient space in front of Ben. This is done in order to not cluster the characters line of sight as seen by the viewer. Dustin Hoffman’s character appears to be lost, confused, and in the midst of discovering his life. The soundtrack also plays an important role in this interpretation. The song “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfuncle establishes a feeling of sadness; it’s a non digetic sound that expresses a melancholy reaction. As Benjamin is passively being transported across the airport to his luggage, the camera switches to Ben’s blue suitcase to reveal another instance of how passive the character appears to be. There is a prop, specifically a sign displayed in the scene that is viewed as the camera pans left to right. The sign asks “Do they match?” Implying does Ben and his suitcase match, this is a deliberate prop that initiates the viewers mind to contemplate how Ben and the suitcase are both passive. This motif of being passive is expressing the idea that Benjamin is a reactive young man who does what he is told. He is not brave, bold, or proactive; he is a puppet of his environment. Benjamin is in the stage of his life where he is searching for his future, and beginning to mature into a man.
As the film develops the underlying theme begins to change as Dustin Hoffman’s characters metamorphoses into a proactive character. Although, Bens passiveness is still quite present in the next scene at his parents Southern California home. From the opening scenes you can see how tight Ben’s parents hold is on him by the claustrophobic camera shots at his graduation party. Most of the scene is filmed with hand held shots giving the feeling of uneasiness. By not using a stedicam the viewer can relate with Benjamin’s nervousness, and desire to escape the chaos. The lighting is very low key which adds to the diluted image of Ben’s feelings. Everyone at the party is a friend of Ben’s parents who apparently makes them a friend of his, but he barely knows them past their last name and occupation. Ben is bombarded by guests, yet, shows no irritation, instead acts polite and passive. As the plot continues, Ben is seen to evolve into a more proactive character after entering the relationship with Mrs. Robinson.
One scene in particular that represents the underlying theme of becoming of age, and becoming proactive, is the first seduction scene between Ben and Mrs. Robinson. The mis-en-scene plays a key role in the theme of this scene at the Robinsons. The mis-en-scene of the scene is very complex and thought out by the director. The setting is very upscale, rich, and elegant. Ben is wearing a blue suit with a yellow and blue striped tie. The colors blue and yellow are common motifs in the film, yellow representing youth and blue representing maturity. Ben’s suit represents