The 1960’s during the Vietnam War represented the coming of age of radicalized youth that went against the conservative values of their parents. The change in culture sparked a change in cinema that appealed to a younger audience. The Graduate directed by Mike Nichols, conveyed the change in cinema and the rebellion between the two generations. Mike Nichols conveys the disconnect between the generations through isolation of the main character Benjamin. Mike Nichols utilizes editing, motifs, montage and Mis-en-scène to develop Ben’s isolation from his parents and the world. In the opening scene of the movie it becomes apparent what Ben is feeling. There is no dialogue in the first scene yet Mike Nichols hints at Ben isolation through cinematography. It begins with a close up of Ben off-centered, and surrounded by white. The white becomes a symbol for isolation that appears throughout the movie. Ben then proceeds to the baggage check where Mike Nichols focuses on a sign that says, “Do They Match,” a symbol for Ben not fitting in anywhere. At Ben’s Graduation party we see a close up of Ben similar to the close up of the opening scene, except he is shown with his fish tank as a background. This becomes a significant shot as many symbols and motifs are developed from this shot. The most prominent symbol in the shot is water. The shot is so spot-on it almost seems as though Ben is in the tank. Inside the tank is a frog in a scuba suit, representing Ben. Ben later gets a scuba suit from his parents as a graduation gift, a little foreshadowing by Nichols. Ben later gets called by his parents and tell him to converse with his “friends.” Ben is bombarded by people looking to speak with him, seeming to suffocate him. Nichols focuses on shots that are very claustrophobic and look uncomfortable. Nobody at the party is Ben’s age or really even Ben’s friend, the party mostly consists of friends of Ben’s parents, making Ben feel alone. An iconic quote comes from this scene that exemplifies the superficiality of the people at the party, “Plastics.” The party continues the next day and Ben receives scuba gear for his birthday. Ben’s perspective in this scene is shown through a POV shot that blocks out the sound from the guest. Nichols wanted to show how little of importance and superficial what they are saying is. A significant turning point within Ben occurs when he decides to sleep with Mrs. Robinson. He uses Mrs. Robinson as way of coping with the depression he is enduring. Mrs. Robinson fills a gap in Ben’s life brought about by his disconnect from his parents. Similar to Ben, Mrs. Robinson is sleeping with Ben as a result of her strained relationship with her husband. Contrary to what Ben expected, Ben still experiences disconnect, perhaps even worse. The scene of Ben and Mrs. Robinson’s first affair is full of symbols and clever screenplay that show Ben’s struggles. Mike Nichols cleverly uses a play on words in the encounter with Ben and the desk clerk,
“Desk Clerk: Are you here for an affair, sir? Ben: What?"
Desk Clerk: The Singleman party, sir?
Ben: Ah, yes, the Singleman party."
When Ben meets up with Mrs. Robinson at the bar, Ben lacks the ability to gain the attention of the waitress. In one shot Ben holds the door for a man attending a geriatric event and then in succession by a group of teens at prom. Ben gets no notice from either group and further demonstrates how out of place he is. Some of Nichols best editing occurs after the first affair scene. Ben leaves the hotel and enters his room in direct succession. Nichols uses the editing to show how Ben’s life is merely consisting of sleeping with Mrs. Robinson and lounging at home. We see drastic changes from Ben during the time of his affair with Mrs. Robinson and when he connects with Elaine. Ben develops more confidence and he finally finds someone who makes him feel wanted and who can relate with him. Elaine and Ben…