The Use Of Metaphors Through Filming Techniques

In The Graduate Essay, Research Paper

The Use of Metaphors Through Filming Techniques in The Graduate

Every generation says it won’t happen to them. “I’m not going to be like my parents. I’m not going to sell out my dreams.” Nothing captures this idea better than The Graduate (Nichols, 1967.) In this twisted film of a college student, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman,) and his search for himself, the director Mike Nichols uses a multitude of metaphors to intensify feelings and emotions. Nichols uses a plethora of filming techniques to help achieve his desired effect. Seductive flashes, color distortion, and a scuba suit are just a few of the many metaphors that Nichols uses in The Graduate. This coming of age film is a timeless classic, due in part to the cinematographic genius demonstrated by Nichols.

A perfect example of Nichols’ use of metaphors to express Ben’s feelings occurs during the infamous scene in which the older Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) seduces him. When Ben proceeds to Elaine Robinson’s (Katharine Ross) bedroom to return Mrs. Robinson her purse, a naked Mrs. Robinson follows in behind him and quickly locks the door. As she offers her body to Ben, a series of flashes of Mrs. Robinson’s breasts and waistline appear. First her breasts, then waist, then breasts, and waist again. These quick flashes last only fractions of a second each and offer a glimpse into the rapid vacillation of Ben’s decision process. Also, the flashes tell us a great deal of Ben’s personality. Having been raised, or rather instructed, to act as a disciplined and scrupulous young man, the majority of his attention is directed above the neck of Mrs. Robinson. However, Ben cannot help from peeping downward at the seductive Mrs. Robinson. It is apparent that the flashes in this scene represent the desires that arise upon Ben’s viewing of the nude Mrs. Robinson. It is also clear that Ben’s heart is racing as sexual thoughts run through his head, however, at this point in the film Ben has not resolute about making his own decisions. Although he is a college graduate, Ben has become a creature of habit excelling at what he is told to do, but refraining from acting on his own intuition. Accordingly, Ben rejects Mrs. Robinson’s initial offer, and escapes from the bedroom unscathed physically, but changed forever psychologically. Although taught that affairs are immoral, Ben is full of curiosity, energy, and fear as he exists the Robinson’s home, and with the encouraging words of Mr. Robinson (Murray Hamilton) to, “sow some wild oats,” the viewer gets the impression that Ben will fall into the hands of temptation and take Mrs. Robinson’s wayward offer. The use of these flashes helps the viewer relate to Ben’s thought process, and in turn, makes him more identifiable.

Another key scene in which Nichols’ use of metaphors enhances the film occurs on Ben’s 21st birthday. This birth date is very important to many people, as it marks the end of boyhood, and the beginning of manhood. However, Ben’s 21st birthday served as a volatile catalyst for this transformation, and possibly represents the most important day of his life. For his birthday, Ben is given a scuba suit, and his parents throw him a party full of family friends. After a temporary submergence, Ben decides to surface, only to be pushed back under water twice by his father (William Daniels.) Ben then proceeds to sink to the depths of the in ground pool, temporarily escaping human contact. A feeling of loneliness is exuded as Ben sits at the bottom of the pool without an attempt to surface, and remains there for an extended period of time. The murky picture shows Ben continue through uncharted thoughts. By distorting the appearance of the water Nichols shows Ben’s unclear and indecisive thought process. However, upon making his decision to call Mrs. Robinson the picture becomes clear once again. Ben’s desires become clearer as does the water. It is obvious that Ben has made up his mind, and will have an affair with Mrs. Robinson. By using the water as a metaphor, Nichols was able to play upon the feelings of his viewers and further enhance their relationship with our main character, Ben. This scene is another example of the use of metaphors through which Nichols expresses Ben’s thoughts.

Another scene in which Nichols uses metaphors to help the viewer identify with the main character occurs when Ben is lazily floating on his raft in the pool. There is an obvious transformation in Ben as he is now dawning shades, and drinking beer. The water appears to sparkle crystal clear, exemplifying his certainty and confidence in the decision that he has made to sleep with Mrs. Robinson. Ben exudes a self-assurance that was nonexistent earlier in the film. However, moments later Ben realizes that although sex, beer, and relaxation are attractive, but are not as fulfilling as he had suspected. The montage of images in which depictions of Ben’s two summer pursuits, lounging around, and Mrs. Robinson are interspliced exhibits this idea. As Ben remains in bed at the Taft hotel, Mrs. Robinson repeatedly passes back and forth. This medley of images can be directly linked to Ben’s uncertainty in the decisions he has made, and the life that he is leading. It seems as if Ben’s affair with Mrs. Robinson has served as an act of rebellion against his parents and society. Although he eventually realizes that this affair is not as glamorous as he had thought it, Ben has finally liberated himself by making a decision. Once again Nichols’s use of flashing allows the viewer to enter into Ben’s character and serves to display his inner thoughts and feelings.

After watching The Graduate it is obvious that Nichols has created a masterpiece, which will endure for decades. As Ben makes his rite of passage to manhood and finds his true self, his feelings and emotions are captured exquisitely by Nichols. By using metaphors such as nude flashes, a scuba suit, and color distortion, Nichols brings us closer to Ben’s character and helps to provide an in-depth look at a seemingly typical college graduate. Although Ben choose a road less traveled in his search for himself, his story will remain forever in the minds of all who watch The Graduate. Ben is not alone in his coming of age in this film, as Nichols grows also, leaving a permanent impact on movie history through his meticulous direct



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