“Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?” This iconic line holds a revered place in American film history. Not only is the dialogue of great importance in the film, but also showed the way for filmmakers and audiences to mold their acceptance of extra-marital affairs in cinematic representations. ‘The Graduate’ released in the year 1967 and marked only the second feature of director Mark Nichols. It spring-boarded its troubled protagonist’s fledgling career into global recognition and made him a star. ‘The Graduate’ recorded five nominations at the Academy Awards, winning one for Best Director for Nichols. The coming-of-age comedy is cited as one of the first instances of satirical comedy in film. The brevity in writing is matched by a surprisingly original style of visual expression created by Nichols.
It is not often that you come across moving images so expressive that writing and performances of this stature assume auxiliary importance. Nichols’ extremely steady and observant camera not only captures the characters’ outer tryst with the world, but gloriously delves into the inner turmoil they go through with themselves. It not only patiently surveys the subject’s actions but also imprints their reaction along with that of their neighbors. In almost a novella styled camera set-up, Nichols narrates this bildungsroman tale adorned by hormonal passion and grand betrayals with an infectious honesty and remarkable restraint that captivates and endears. The layered structure of the narrative offers enough avenues for a wide spectrum of viewers with eclectic tastes and proclivities to explore. Let us dissect this timeless masterpiece and look at the nuanced meanings of the complex ideas presented in the movie.
‘The Graduate’ revolves around the post-college life of Benjamin Braddock, a capable and confused bachelor lost in the vastness of life. At his homecoming party, Benjamin is smothered by the love showered on him by his parents and their friends. Amidst the unsolicited celebration of Benjamin’s life, he is beckoned by Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father’s partner, to drive her home. Initially reluctant, to the extent of handing over the keys to his brand new expensive car, Benjamin finally agrees. On arrival, Mrs. Robinson invites him into her house, feigning a fear of coming in a dark house. After obligatory exchanges, Benjamin is forced to share a drink by Mrs. Robinson, who disables him from leaving, indulging in flirtatious exchanges. The two then shift their conversation to Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine’s room, where Benjamin is propositioned by a naked Mrs. Robinson to have an affair with her.
Narrowly avoiding the suspicions of Mr. Robinson, who arrives shortly after, Benjamin escapes to his haven, where he contemplates the offer. After much deliberation, Benjamin finally surrenders to his post-adolescent curiosity and charts a place for Mrs. Robinson to meet. The Taft Hotel becomes their tempest of deceptive lies and dirty secrets, where they frequent their rendezvous. The period marks a noticeable change in Benjamin’s behavior, indicating his growing maturity and self-confidence.
One night out of boredom, Benjamin probes Mrs. Robinson about the purpose of her extra-marital operations and proceeds to inquire about the nature of her marriage. A perturbed Mrs. Robinson concedes pre-marriage pregnancy as the reason for her unison with me. Robinson, which proves wholeheartedly underwhelming and uninspired for her. It is here that Mrs. Robinson makes Benjamin promise her that he’ll never date Elaine whatsoever the circumstances. Benjamin duly obliges, without anticipating what lies ahead.