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The Graduate. Social Context. 1960s USA: a period of change Transition between conservative 50’s and radical 1970s Vietnam War 1961 - 75 Radicalised American youth - vets and draft resisters Youth culture and distrust of adult world. Cinematic context. The “Old Hollywood”

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social context
Social Context
  • 1960s USA: a period of change
  • Transition between conservative 50’s and radical 1970s
  • Vietnam War 1961 - 75
  • Radicalised American youth - vets and draft resisters
  • Youth culture and distrust of adult world
cinematic context
Cinematic context

The “Old Hollywood”

  • domination by traditional studios: MGM, Fox, Paramount, RKO, Warner Bros

Vertical integration: owned production, distribution and exhibition (cinemas)

cinematic context1
Cinematic context

Post-WW2 decline of Hollywood

  • “Paramount Case”

1948 - US Dept of Justice forced end to monopolistic practices - studios had to sell their cinemas

  • Post-war shift to suburbs
  • Baby boom
  • Rise of television
  • Enormous drop in cinema attendance - gradual decline of whole Hollywood Studio system
cinematic context2
Cinematic context

1950’s - 1960’s; period of uncertainty as Hollywood tried to come to terms with new situation

Attempt to compete against TV by increased use of colour, wide-screen etc

Some successes but by 1960s Hollywood losing touch with audience, esp youth audience

cinematic context3
Cinematic context

“New Hollywood”

(aka “post-classical Hollywood”)

Brief period after 1967

  • Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate -

(perhaps most “zeitgeisty” of the films of this era)

  • The Graduategrossed $100m+ to make it one of top 5 films in decade

This period over by 1980 (Heaven’s Gate)

cinematic context4
Cinematic context

New generation of young, cinema-crazed filmmakers (“baby boomers” coming of age) came to prominence in US, drastically changing not only way Hollywood films produced but also kinds of films made.

  • Influence of “auteurism” and French Nouvelle Vague
  • Studio chiefs gave their head - including final cut
cinematic context5
Cinematic context

Changes in censorship arrangements

“Hay’s Production Code” coming to an end by 1966 - had established from 1930’s what films allowed to do and not to do

eg couple on a bed (even married) - one foot on the floor

No “lascivious kissing”, no miscegenation

1968 - new certification system introduced

The Graduate in between - more daring but still studio restrictions (Mrs Robinson’s “nude” scene

- done with almost subliminal speed)

cinematic context6
Cinematic context

“New Hollywood” coming to an end by 1975 (JawsStar Wars), 1977

  • unprecedented box-office success jumpstarted Hollywood\'s blockbuster mentality
  • effectively ending New Hollywood reign of smaller, idiosyncratic, stylistically adventurous films films.

eg Chinatown, The Last Picture Show,The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Mash, American Graffiti, Dog Day Afternoon

cinematic context7
Cinematic context

Ultimate demise came after a string of self-indulgent films which failed at box-office

  • eg New York New York (1977); Popeye (1980)
  • then financial disaster of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate(1980) which bankrupted United Artists and resulted in its sale to MGM
mike nichols b 1931
Mike Nichols (b. 1931)
  • As well as The Graduate, most prominent films: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf (1966), Carnal Knowledge (1971), Silkwood (1983), Working Girl (1988),

Postcards from the Edge (1990), Regarding Henry (1991), Primary Colours (1998), Angels in America (TV miniseries) (2003)

the graduate1
The Graduate

An iconic film even today - as evidenced by its intertextual profile

  • cf Renault Clio advert
  • cf The Simpsons
  • cf Wayne’s World 2
the graduate2
The Graduate
  • Received seven Academy Award nominations:

Best Director, Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, and Cinematography.

Mike Nichols picked up its only award, for directing.

the graduate3
The Graduate
  • Released during “summer of love” 1967, immediately perceived as emblem of 60’s generation - in revolt against parents’ culture and values
  • Based on Charles Webb’s novel (Webb v much “counter-cultural”)
  • Launched Dustin Hoffman’s career
the graduate4
The Graduate

Main Themes

  • Entrapment
  • Isolation
  • Alienation
  • Generation gap
  • Coming of Age
  • Romance (“love can conquer all.”)

Ben lacks direction in life, unable to communicate with those around him.

Themes are conveyed in the formal qualities of the film.

mise en scene and cinematography
Mise en scene and cinematography
  • Ben\'s isolation and entrapment reflected in the numerous glass motifs which are used to divide Ben from others; also many images of water
  • Entrapment in images of aquarium
mise en scene and cinematography5
Mise en scene and cinematography

Glass, reflection, water

mise en scene and cinematography6
Mise en scene and cinematography

Glass, reflection, water

mise en scene and cinematography7
Mise en scene and cinematography

Glass, reflection, water

mise en scene and cinematography8
Mise en scene and cinematography

Glass, reflection, water

mise en scene and cinematography9
Mise en scene and cinematography
  • Nichols\' camera also veers from extreme long shots of Ben alone in wide, open spaces to excessive close-ups and claustrophobic framing devices, allowing the viewer to empathise with protagonist.
mise en scene and cinematography10
Mise en scene and cinematography

eg opening (post credit) sequence Ben\'s parents shroud our view by stepping in front of the camera and oppressing him visually. We are equally as frustrated as Ben

eg tight claustrophobic framing when the guests want to speak to him

Clip 2

mise en scene and cinematography11
Mise en scene and cinematography
  • Early shot when Mrs. Robinson is asking Ben for lift home, casually tosses keys into the fish tank behind him - reveals Mrs. Robinson\'s immediate control over Ben.

Clip 3

mise en scene and cinematography12
Mise en scene and cinematography
  • Scene at the Robinson\'s house, immediately following Mrs. Robinson\'s attempted seduction as Ben talking with Mr. Robinson.
  • The two of them talking in foreground, when Mrs. R finally seen descending the stairs. She is shot walking in the distance right between Ben and Mr. Robinson, creating interesting visual effect, as if being shared, unassumingly, between the two conversing men.
cinematography and mise en scene
Cinematography and Mise en scene
  • Later in same scene, Mr. Robinson continues talking to Ben while they walk to door together. Mrs. Robinson is in focus in the foreground as Ben and Mr. Robinson seen walking down hall becoming ever blurrier in lens. (Use of focal shift)
  • Sets up interesting image, seeing the fatherly arm around Ben as they walk away, but still observing Mrs. R\'s powerful look into camera, generating intriguing effect, - makes audience feel as uncomfortable as Ben in this awkward situation.
mise en scene and cinematography13
Mise en scene and cinematography
  • Later in the film, Mrs R ceases to be the youthful-looking seductress after her daughter\'s entrance reminds her of her age.
mise en scene and cinematography14
Mise en scene and cinematography

Use of Zoom

Opening (credit) sequence

CU on Ben (we expect long establishing shot)

Reverse zoom - we see that he is in fact in a crowd - emphasises his isolation

mise en scene and cinematography15
Mise en scene and cinematography

Use of Zoom

When Elaine realises Ben has been having sex with her mother, she screams at him to leave.

Mrs Robinson is framed in CU, camera then zooms back to reveal Ben in the foreground as she says “Goodbye, Benjamin”

Zoom suggests a distance now between them - reinforced by use of wide-angle lens

Clip 7

mise en scene and cinematography16
Mise en scene and cinematography

Use of Zoom

  • Ben goes to Berkeley in search of Elaine, walks through campus in LS sits on the edge of a fountain to wait. Zoom out (via a time-lapse dissolve) into an even more impressive shot, showing entire campus as classes start, Ben being focal point.
  • Then shown in MS on fountain, until stands up and turns around, where camera then quickly zooms past his shoulder, in an eye line match, to Elaine all the way across campus.
mise en scene and cinematography17
Mise en scene and cinematography

Use of Zoom

  • When Ben arrives to take out Elaine, the depth of Mrs R’s disapproval expressed in slow zoom LS to CU - if looks could kill!
  • (starts with overlapping sound of doorbell)
  • Note also moronic gameshow on TV in background - Mr R seems to be enjoying it, Mrs R bored rigid - emphasising her alienation

Clip 9

mise en scene and cinematography18
Mise en scene and cinematography

Use of Zoom

Ben in the Robinson\'s bedroom looking desperately for Elaine.

While Mrs. R is calling police, v effective zoom from LS to almost CU of Mrs. R, enhancing tension of scene and displaying her continuing power over Ben.

Very next frame LS of Ben standing in ragged disbelief of situation, almost making him blend in background of bedroom, creating very insignificant feel to Ben\'s reckless plight.

Clip 10

cinematography and mise en scene1
Cinematography and Mise en scene

Rack focus

  • Rack focus used when Ben trying to tell Elaine identity of the “older woman”. He looks at Mrs Robinson who is distraught as Elaine is shocked
  • Note way Elaine’s face remains out of focus, connoting her shock and confusion

Clip 11

cinematography and mise en scene2
Cinematography and Mise en scene
  • Mrs Robinson\'s dominant, predatory nature expressed through costume, especially the animal print motifs on her clothes

(motif discarded after she has ‘devoured her prey’)

cinematography and mise en scene9
Cinematography and Mise en scene

Telephoto lens

By using a telephoto lens, Benjamin - desperately trying to “get to the church on time” - appears to be “running on the spot”

Connotes feeling of panic and dread that he will be too late

Clip 12

mise en scene and cinematography19
Mise en scene and cinematography
  • Ben\'s clothing and body language progress from the uptight conformity of suit and tie . . .

… to a laid-back attitude, complete with shades and cigarette, after his affair with Mrs Robinson has begun

cinematography and mise en scene10
Cinematography and Mise en scene

Use of colour

Mrs Robinson and Elaine differentiated by colour:

Elaine often shown in pink …

cinematography and mise en scene11
Cinematography and Mise en scene

Use of colour

… while Mrs Robinson frequently in black

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Cinematography and Mise en scene

Graphic match between Ben and toy frogman . . .

cinematography and mise en scene13
Cinematography and Mise en scene

… and Ben as toy frogman.

editing
Editing

Montage Sequence showing Ben’s relationship with Mrs R over summer

Scene preceded by Ben’s seduction by Mrs R in room in Taft Hotel – once again wearing animal prints (this time underwear) connoting predator. When she makes to dress and leave, suggesting he is “inadequate”, he shouts “Don’t move!” and slams the door shut (her strategy has worked).

editing1
Editing
  • Montage:
  • Sequence showing Ben’s relationship with Mrs R over summer (36.20 - 41.07)
  • Scene begins to accompaniment of S and G’s “Sounds of Silence” on soundtrack
  • Long FADE IN, to reveal swimming pool with sunlight glistening on surface
  • DISSOLVE to Ben lying in the pool in an I inflatable raft
  • wearing wraparound sun-glasses (to shut out external world?)
  • DISSOLVE to water then another dissolve to Ben lying back drinking beer; he is drifting (metaphor?) with movement of water.

Clip 13

editing2
Editing

Summer Montage:

Montage of images linked by clever transitional devices, suggests the emptiness of his life. Walks back and forth transparently between these two pursuits and worlds – his house and the Taft Hotel.

editing3
Editing

Summer Montage:

Enters Braddock home from pool, emerging into hotel room with Mrs. Robinson [a Hotel Taft towel hangs on the bathroom door].

He blankly stares into space against black background - image emphasises sterile environment. Rises from bed to shut dining room door, briefly glimpsing parents eating dinner.

Clip 14

editing4
Editing

Summer Montage:

After lying down again in bed, is back in the Taft Hotel bedroom. A female figure walks past in front of him, dresses, and leaves room. Then, he leaves his own bedroom, passes his mother, and goes for a swim in the backyard pool.

One of their many sexual contacts symbolized by his diving up onto a inflatable rubber pool raft inter-cut with his landing on top of Mrs. Robinson in bed.

Clip 15

editing5
Editing

Summer Montage: :

In another disorienting cut from their sexual coupling to Ben’s lounging on a raft in the backyard pool, he turns to his despairing father who stands over him and questions his continued laziness and lack of direction.

Father insists on knowing the point of his four years of college - without plans for graduate school or a career. He peers through his dark sunglasses at the silhouette of his father above him:

Clip 16

editing6
Editing

Summer Montage:

“Drifting” is what he is doing in figurative sense and is unable to communicate with his parents

editing7
Editing

Juxtaposition

Scene when Ben shaving follows montage sequence. Dissolve from Mrs R to Ben shaving in bathroom

Mother - of similar age to Mrs R - asking him what he’s been up to over the summer

Note her “‘decolletée” state - again linking her to Mrs Robinson

Clip 17

editing8
Editing

Nichols undermines conventional \'passing of time\' techniques used in cinema

eg blurring Ben\'s summer activities from home to hotel room seamlessly to confuse the viewer - prevents clear distinction between mother and Mrs Robinson

illustrates the meaningless qualities of the affair: Ben passively drifts through events, rather than actively enjoying the liaison.

editing9
Editing

Nichols experiments with overt editing techniques (as opposed to “invisible” continuity editing principles in force in Hollywood for decades) techniques which draw attention to themselves)

eg Ben\'s double-take after being confronted with Mrs Robinson naked, and the jarring snippets of her naked body as he desperately tries not to devour the sight.

Technique also heightens the unnatural, uncomfortable nature of this union.

Clip 18

editing10
Editing
  • Scene of Mrs Robinson naked in front of Ben
  • done almost subliminally, connoting Ben’s sense of panic and confusion …
  • … while at same time not pushing too far beyond the strictures of the recently-redundant Hayes Office and its production code regarding scenes of a sexual nature

Clip 19

sound
Sound

The Graduate innovatively uses silence as sound effect

POV shots of Ben often accompanied by absence of natural sound whenever Ben isn\'t listening - allows us to see and hear from a character\'s perspective.

Highlights the importance of diegetic and non-diegetic sound to our understanding of cinema.

Clip 20

sound1
Sound

Overlapping sound

One of Nichol’s favoured tropes in this film

eg leaving the Robinsons’

eg long overlap between Ben under water in diving suit and phoning Mrs Robinson

Eg Ben again under water overlapping with arriving at the Robinsons’ to pick up Elaine

Creates an almost dreamlike quality

Clip 21

sound2
Sound

Music

Innovative use of popular music, in particular already recorded tracks - Simon & Garfunkel songs came from two existing albums (“Sound of Silence; “Scarborough Fair”) - only “Mrs Robinson” added

Later various directors, eg Scorsese, used existing songs as soundtrack

sound3
Sound
  • Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack relates directly to film\'s themes and plot,
  • eg

opening “Sound Of Silence” - becomes motif for Ben\'s dissatisfaction throughout film

Clip 22

sound4
Sound
  • Use of “mickeymousing”

“Mrs Robinson” track losing steam as Ben’s car runs out of petrol (good example of mickeymousing)

Clip 23

sound5
Sound

The ending: is it a happy one?

After leaving church and getting on bus,

transformation of emotions from triumphalism at their victory and daring to … silence. For first time since their relationship, they have nothing to say to each other

Use of sound alone questions happy ending.

"Hello darkness my old friend" revived as both Ben and Elaine sit silently on a journey to nowhere

sound6
Sound

In our last image of them, looking away from each other rather than into each others’ eyes

Are they - as Nichols once commented - heading towards roles resembling their parents’?

Clip 24

questions for discussion
Questions for Discussion

1. There are many images of water and glass throughout this film. Think of the swimming pool, the fishbowl in Ben’s room, Ben’s scuba mask, his sunglasses, and the many paintings, tabletops, and windows that reflect, reveal, or cover.

Are they symbolic images?

Are they merely part of Ben’s visible world? How do they function in the film?

.

questions for discussion1
Questions for Discussion

2.The Graduate is divided into two parts. There are two settings (Los Angeles and Berkeley), two generations and two life- styles, two women, two sides to Benjamin, and perhaps two types of storytelling (comedy/satire and romance).

Describe these contrasting aspects of the film. How are they related to each other and to the film’s main themes?

.

questions for discussion2
Questions for Discussion

3. Nichols directing style is stamped on every shot in the film, such as close-ups and overlapping sound transitions.

How innovative is the film from a technical point of view?

How effectively does Nichols use film techniques?

.

questions for discussion3
Questions for Discussion

4. The first image in The Graduateis a close-up of Ben’s face. Then we see that he’s alone on an airplane.

How else does the film emphasise his solitude, his alienation from those around him?

What accounts for his sense of isolation?

Do you think he ever overcomes this feeling?

.

questions for discussion4
Questions for Discussion

5. Nichols is regarded as a “mise en scene” director (ie with a very noticeable style, a “look”). Colours are associated with certain characters in the movie. Mrs. Robinson often wears black and animal prints. Elaine appears in pink. The friends of Ben’s parents are dressed in whites and blues.

How is colour/costume used through the film? What is the effect?

.

questions for discussion5
Questions for Discussion

6. Is it a happy ending?

What lies ahead for the couple?

.

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