The Graduate Film Theory and Review



(Spoilers if you haven’t seen the film yet)
50 years ago, back in 1967 audiences crammed into cinemas to watch ‘The Graduate’. Now, with a 4k restoration and the film returned to the big screen it must be time for a retrospective on Mike Nichols masterpiece of a film.
I was going through a 1960s film watching faze, having recently watched comedy genius, Billy Wilder’s film ‘The Apartment (1960)’ and Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Dr. Strangelove (1964)’ I held a high level of excitement for watching another film from the 60s, which happened to be ‘The Graduate’. Having heard good things about it, I couldn’t wait to watch it. The only issue was getting my hands on it.  But One of the perks of being a film student (in college Level 3 level) is having access to a college library DVD booking service. Keeping in mind the nature of the film, It wasn’t exactly go in and walk straight back out again, with the precious artefact clutched in hand. Luckily, I ordered the film and to my delight a blu-ray copy awaited me.
Instantly, the viewer forms an emotional attachment to the protagonist, Benjamin Braddock played by Dustin Hoffman and builds a personal friendship as we experience a unforgettable journey alongside him. Perhaps, ‘The Graduate (1967)’ appealed to me on a personal level; being another student at the time of watching and currently fearful for my future prospects I could connect with the protagonist and be a classic example of the ‘Personal identity’ viewer (Uses and Gratification theory). Therefore, I feel Mike Nichols presents ‘The Graduate’ in a way that each member of an audience can relate and react differently to the scenes shown on screen without the utilisation of preferred readings and passive spectatorship approaches to filmmaking.
The filmmaking techniques in ‘The Graduate’ are often quirky and incorporate a sense of playfulness. The filmmaker wishes for the audience to work out the location of shots during the films famous time transition scenes. An example of this is available on Youtube.
Furthermore, frequent representations of the ‘Kuleshov effect’ editing montage (montage referring to the art of early editing techniques discussed by soviet filmmaker and film theorist, Lev Kuleshov instead of today’s view as a time transition) are also witnessed throughout the film especially seen during the initial scene sequence situated at Mrs. Robinson’s house.This time the Kuleshov effect is presented as a swift cut back and forth showing Benjamin’s reaction to Mrs. Robinson’s removing of clothing (Anne Bancroft).
Moving back onto the content of the film from an audience perspective, the film is a highly entertaining watch with aspects of comedy that you can’t help but chuckle along to and of course scenes of Romance.
The Graduate (1967) does include some audience expectations or common romantic cliches seen in the genre across history but the screenwriters are quick to adjust the path and shake up the cocktail. Despite the romance experienced between Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson in the first half, the romantic content for the film is actually unexpectedly short which creates a more natural and realistic feeling to The Graduate with the characters acting closer to the lifestyle of humans than Hollywoods typical representation of people. Even though, I love vintage romance films I am a huge fan of movies that take a U-turn from the norm, if you like. I feel The Graduate does this exceptionally well and is placed alongside other films I look up for changing the way things are. ‘Lost in Translation (2003)’ directed by Sofia Coppola is a big jump from the cinema of 1967 (chronologically speaking). Lost in Translation was my favourite film for a long time for this very reason and since watching the graduate, I wish to place them both as equal favourites. But as a cinephile and film student a favourite film is constantly changing.
Written by Cameron Savage
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