THE GRADUATE Mike Nicholls’ film the Graduate is a classic of its time. It manages to wrap up into one movie many generational themes and ideas. The understated performance by Dustin Hoffman, literally the Graduate of the title, remains a touchstone today…
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One of the most famous scenes in the film is the scene where Hoffman jumps into the swimming pool and sinks to the bottom. This is an extraordinary mise-en-scene which captures the heart of the movie, the story, and the character’s place in the world. The scene begins with Hoffman’s father building up suspense and talking to a group of friends gathered by a swimming pool in a suburban neighbourhood. The colours are bright, but generally pastels. Hoffman enters wearing a diving suit. Nothing can be heard of the people around him. Their mouths move, but he is unable to hear them. The mask and suit are isolating, separating him from others around him. He is alone and tired of the people he knows, people who are alien to him. His vision is also circumscribed by the mask which cuts off his peripheral vision. Clearly, the director wants the viewer to have the sensation that Hoffman is limited and separated from the world around him. He doesn’t belong and doesn’t yet understand his place in this world. The next part of the scene is where Hoffman falls in the water and is looking up at the world through the water of the swimming pool. He looks at his father through the mask. His father’s hand keeps reaching out, pushing him back into the water. Clearly, the father thinks this is all in good fun, but we get the sense that Hoffman is not enjoying this moment. The camera then pans out on Hoffman in his divers suit standing on the bottom of the pool. His suit is of no real purpose. He is not diving or hunting, he is just standing, doing nothing, while above his friends and family chatter on. The camera pans further out until Hoffman disappears in the murk of the suburban swimming pool. It is a brilliantly accomplished conclusion to one of the most famous scenes in American cinema. Throughout the scene, sound is very important. For example, Hoffman cannot hear anything except the sound of his own breathing. The voices of those around him are silent, even though he can see they are talking. It is a lonesome perspective and one that is carefully achieved by the director. He is trapped in his head, trapped in his body, with no way of expressing himself to the outside world. Many of the themes of this film have been discussed at length over the numerous decades since it the Graduate was made. One of the most significant is clearly the generation gap. The 1960s marked a change in the demographics of America. The Baby Boomers, born after the Second World War, were finally coming into their own. These young men and women had very different ideas than many of their parents did. They were not shy about expressing these ideas, but they were often ridiculed and had trouble finding their place in the world. This is seen in how Hoffman, or Ben, has trouble relating to his parents, and in the desperate relationship he begins with Mrs. Robinson, played by the estimable Anne Bancroft. The corruption and boredom of suburban life are also important elements that are in play throughout the film. Deracination is very much a theme in the film. Mrs. Robinson, as much as Benjamin, appears to be isolated and unloved. She too has trouble understanding the world around her. She may seem less questioning and more confident than Benjamin but she too is a product of the post-war world and is very unhappy in it. The Graduate is a film for all seasons and repeated viewing brings out more and more elements worthy of discussion. However, the key scene is at the swimming pool as Benjamin in full, useless diving
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“Film Assingnment Assignment Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 750 Words”, n.d. https://studentshare.org/visual-arts-film-studies/1459012-film-assingnment.
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