25 September 2011

The Graduate (1967)

Mike Nichols delivers interesting plot and many directorial techniques in "The Graduate," the account of Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate played by Dustin Hoffman. Benjamin, unsure about his future after college, becomes romantically involved with Mrs. Robinson, and family friend who is married to his father's business partner. As time goes on, Benjamin develops strong feelings for Elaine, Mrs. Robinson's daughter, which leads to the revealing of Benjamin's affair with Mrs. Robinson.

It was very fascinating to analyze the many aspects of mise en scene being utilized throughout this film. One of the most apparent things I noticed, as an avid fashion enthusiast, was the costumes in the film that created a scenic realism of the time frame the film was shot. The beginning of the movie features a celebratory party for Benjamin being thrown by his parents and I was highly aware of the 1960's-inspired wardrobe of the extras in the scene. High necklines, below-knee length dresses, and sequin fabric were all noticeable features of the many people in attendance. Moreover, the hair and makeup contributed to the scenic realism of the time period. The majority of the women throughout the film displayed neatly done hair styles with signs of excessive hair spray to give their hair volume and stability. I definitely appreciated the vintage, chic fashion sense of the 1960s that was so explicitly displayed.

Another major aspect of mise en scene that was evident to me was the use of cultural props. We see Benjamin in a classic red convertible that definitely resonated with the time period of the film's setting. Furthermore, cigarettes and cigars are ever present in this movie, whose purpose as a cultural prop is hard to miss. The popularity of smoking is a major characteristic of the 1960s that Nichols reminds the viewer of in this movie quite consistently. Indoor smoking, specifically, is a familiar action seen in movies that were filmed or take place in past decades.

The lighting in this film was very intriguing to analyze. I noticed that full lighting of an entire room was a rare instance. Aside from the outdoor scenes, there always seemed to be only a portion of a room lit while the rest of the characters and set seemed only dimly lit. In the hotel room scene when Benjamin attempts to start a meaningful conversation with Mrs. Robinson before they sleep together, there is a significantly long period of time where the room only has a small amount of fill lighting coming from the windows. The shading used in the rest of the room was somewhat ironic to me as these two main characters were having a conversation. The great deal of time in the dark almost made me lose interest in the scene until Mrs. Robinson began turning on the lamp on few occasions. I felt as if it was almost unnecessary to watch the screen because I didn't think I would miss anything significant if I could not see the characters' nonverbal behaviors. Overall, however, I thought it was strategically smart to incorporate more shading and fill lighting than key lighting throughout the film because it gave the plot a mysterious and almost suspenseful vibe as we see Benjamin trying to solve such a unique problem.

The character of Mrs. Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft, displayed major performance development through the film that made her stick out to me as a viewer. The first half of the film displays her as such an elegant and poised woman, regardless of her intentions of seducing a man half her age. She expressed no hesitation or nervousness when she first seduced Benjamin, which gave her character such a calm demeanor. However, I appreciated her transition when she confronts Benjamin after his first date with Elaine. She runs through the rain and enters Benjamin's car with wet, messy hair and no makeup, the first time we see her without the usual glamor her character exudes. She proceeds to express panic and anger, threatening Benjamin not to see her daughter anymore, and we finally see her poise break down. The next time we see Mrs. Robinson, she is in her home packing her belongings when Benjamin storms in looking for Elaine. Now, we see Mrs. Robinson back in her calm, collected demeanor. Her character has such substance that, in my opinion, no other character displayed in the film.

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