The Graduate Review
Updated: Jul 10, 2020
"The Graduate", StudioCanal, 1967
An interesting response to the world of French New Wave brought into Hollywood by Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde", utilising its refreshingly amateurish style to explore the uncomfortable intricacies that shapes the transition into adulthood, expanding the genre stylistically as well as emotionally that poignantly comments on the hypocrisies of freedom through its countercultural lens.
The fragmented personality of this film provides the perfect platform to underline the biting realities of the dynamics its genre tropes and the relationship it has to the growing consciousness of America's zeitgeist. Furthermore, rather than falling into the trap of becoming a pretentious homage to this shift in style of filmmaking, it remains laser-focussed in telling a compelling story, using the shell of its contemporary aesthetics to dart around its themes of sexuality, age and masculinity in a very self-reflexive way without becoming parody. This consistency can be seen with its uncompromising feeling of vulnerability and the unknown, which works absolutely fantastically through the strength of the relationship between the way in which this unchained sense of darkness informs and contradicts the enigmatic tangents in the narrative that constantly builds upon this tonal breadth and the beautifully-realised written and directed line of characters, all of which are perfectly casted and help push forward cracks of the class system that shapes this underlying restlessness that harnesses the unpredictability of the future. Hoffman's Benjamin, whilst characterised as explicitly with his motivations as his dialogue, is sharply performed, with his good-natured awkwardness he carries around being relatability lived-in, doing a perfect job at highlighting his alien-like presence in a world that only upholds traditional masculinity. Structured around the femme-fetal narrative device of Bancroft's poetically performed Mrs Robinson that encapsulates the emotional obscurity of a woman swallowed by the idealised suburbanite America, the screenplay covers the spectrum spanning from gritty realism to dark and disturbing surrealism to the way in which the plot progresses, giving the stiffness of the Jean-Luc Godard-esque approach to film form a kinetic sense of pacing that completely absorbs the audience. The familiar beats to the story that provides the room for the unpredictability of the treatment only further enhances this maniacal sense of identification the viewer has towards Benjamin, a detail which is recognised by Nichols and so further obscures his motivations through a comprehensive character arc that explores the selfishness that branches the scale of age. Framed by the juxtaposition between the blinding 60s-riddled production design and the lifelessness of the natural lighting, as well as the iconic sombre balladry of Simon and Garfunkel's soundtrack, its tonal consistency never loses focus alongside the quest-like narrative structure, highlighting an ominous impression of doubt that reminded both contemporary audiences of the tumultuous cultural identity that they existed within and modern audiences of the vapidness of societal foundation that upholds moral corruption above genuine humanity.
Overall, its status as a timeless classic is certainly earned. Its artistic merits go beyond what it represents in its place in film history with its delicately blunt approach towards more liberal ideologies that are incredibly engaging and emotionally dynamic with its understated rawness that opens the floodgates for symbolic meaning, constantly echoing back to the appropriate idea change.