“Benjamin, you will never be young again, sew a few oats while you can. ” (Mr. Robinson) The Graduate, a coming of age film that hardly can be considered traditional, but at the same time relates to every being that has experienced puberty, thus, finding manhood or womanhood. Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson are the main characters designed for the audience, both young and old, and facing this ever revolving passion to be one or the other. The trials and tribulation takes the viewer on a journey through a failing marriage, a taboo affair, and ultimately a search for the meaning of self.
The film is set in the late 1950’s and one of the key components is conformity; we find the young man who has conformed since birth will journey to nonconformity of adulthood. Mrs. Robinson, dynamic character and manipulative alcoholic is defined only by her marriage and conformity. Ben creates an altering reality for Mrs. Robinson allowing for her to feel youth through this forbidden affair. The structure of this film has overwhelming symbolism between water and maturity; water represents all that is unknown.
The scene that provides the best evidence of an evolving man begins with an unknowing father urging an immature Ben into manhood. The audience finds Ben dressed in scuba gear walking slowly to the pools edge, only to find hesitation, until the final plunge. As Ben emerges we find him floating upon the water; no longer nervous, no longer a virgin, but completely evolved. All innocence is lost. At the same time we find Mrs. Robinson enlightened and playful; her character is altered.
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Her affair represents human nature a yearning to be desired and loved. The film’s purpose provides assurance to the audience of the innate creatures we are. It is through the above scene we build a personal relationship with Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson. Together the characters personify our own individual struggle with maturity and sexuality causing the audience to form an intimate relationship. The director kept the viewer keen by providing different tones, obstacles, and challenging the audience to think.
This film’s music is interesting evidence that the director wanted his audience to understand what was going on in the story and what was to come. Three major songs are introduced: “The Sound of Silence,” “April Come She Will,” and “Mrs. Robinson. ” The song, “The Sound of Silence” provides further evidence of the internal battle Benjamin faces with his flawed enlightenment, “Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk to you again because of vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping, and the vision that was planted in my brain still remains within the sound of silence. (Simon and Garfunkel) plays continuously in the background providing a melancholy tone and preparing the audience for a complete plot change. This song is the climax of the movie; thus announcing the darker side to the audience and allowing the viewer to understand the whirlwind changes are two main characters have ahead of them. During the climax of the film there is a changing of the music; “April Come She Will” plays; it is here that Ben gives the audience his ultimate persona and he becomes the viewer’s teacher.
Ben and Mrs. Robinson are such dimensional characters each having multiple personas: a teacher, a student, a stranger and ultimately a reflection of our self. The 1960’s film, The Graduate is an all time favorite of mine, nominated for seven Oscars and the winner for Best Director. This movie not only explores powerful and taboo experiences (that still exist today) but functions as a survival guide and educator for people of all ages.