Some experiences are universal. At some moment in time every person has had some variation of this one thought. “What the f*** am I doing with my life?” While the thought may occur at any time, ranging from trying to find your place in the world, or figuring out just how you got to this point, it’s a scary thought that can have life changing repercussions when action is taken upon it. The 1967 film ‘The Graduate’ explores this notion from multiple angles in both a humorous and realistic way. The realism of the film is not only shown through the story and characters, but reflected through its choice of music, creating an honest portrayal of life in multiple senses.
Despite the films initial comedic plot and set up, the characters motivations and dialogue seem genuine. Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) begins the film as a recently graduated twenty year old, at a complete loss with what to do with his life, getting mixed signals from multiple directions, some telling him to dive head first in to work while others encouraging him to enjoy his youth and relax. While wrestling with his social obligations and need to isolate himself to just think, he ends up making a number of rash decisions just to feel somewhat in control. As the story unfolds, we discover, even if some are only hinted at rather than blatantly stated, just how universal this feeling really is. The iconic Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) even uses this thought as her driving motive behind the film, displaying a desire not only for control but for her daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross), to never have to settle for the same choices forced upon her. The film displays a view of an overwhelming lack of control throughout life and that the choices we can make, we are ultimately stuck with. And yet shows this in its own strange sense of humour.
The over arcing theme can even be felt through its use of camera shots and music. With its use of cinematography, the camera will frequently display a first person perspective, placing the viewer in the shoes of the subject. Forcing us to look through the characters eyes at defining moments, pushing the weight of these decisions on us and dismissing them as a passing thought with the change of perspective. This can also be felt in the music throughout. The film forgoes a traditional score, instead choosing mostly popular pieces from Simon and Garfunkel, the most notable of which being “The Sound of Silence”. Played at three key moments of the film, reflecting the character at all times. The rest of the film falls mostly silent music wise, mimicking our everyday world, creating situations that can be identified with more deeply.
The Graduate provides an interesting portrait for the importance of choice in our lives that can be identified with by almost anyone. An important film at any time of life.