While attending Kennesaw State University, this writer from Austell took many film classes. Every time there was something new offered, I jumped on the opportunity to learn more about various films. One of the courses this writer attended was one taught by Dr. Michael Tierce. The class focused on The Graduate and how that film influenced many current releases of the film world. We studied The Graduate so in depth, this writer cannot watch the film now without thinking of what I learned that semester. Since the film was made in 1967, this was a film I was not fortunate enough to see wat Movies 278 or Regal Cinemas Stadium 22 in Austell when the film was released in theaters. In fact, these theaters were not even built at the time! While in the class, I learned to process a film’s soundtrack differently than before. By paying close attention to a soundtrack more about a character or characters can be revealed. The Graduate was also the first film to ever utilize a soundtrack in this way. Through Dr. Tierce’s teachings on the material at hand, this writer realized the importance of lyrics within The Graduate. The following is what developed from doing so.
“Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again” becomes not only the ongoing soundtrack, but the ongoing theme for The Graduate. Within this cinematic world there are characters who are unwilling to communicate with one another, which ultimately becomes their downfalls. Through the journeys of life audiences find a woman who is disgusted and trying to redeem what little life she has left. In addition, viewers find a boy who recently turned into a man by society’s eyes. Then there is the journey of a girl who is trying to realize what womanhood is all about so she can be in control of her life instead of her life being dictated. Song lyrics have helped people understand the place they are at in their lives, and will continue doing so for years to come. These Simon and Garfunkel lyrics are no different. These lyrics provide many insights into the characters film enthusiasts have enjoyed since The Graduate’s release in 1967.
During one of the many montage scenes, more specifically the one that mainly includes various cuts from Benjamin laying on his float thinking about how his summer has gone so far, audiences hear the song “The Sound of Silence”. Amid the day he rests and merely attempts to think about what he really wants from life. His nights consist of being with Mrs. Robinson. Benjamin’s nights can be described in the lyrics, “Because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping, and the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains.” During the montage observers go through Benjamin’s thought process. In particular, this evokes an emotion with how he perceived coming home for his post graduation party. The lyrics, “Ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening” soon lets spectators know that not even Mrs. Robinson is really listening to him. In truth, this is all Benjamin truly wanted in the first place. He wants to make sense of the world he’s in and not have to worry about his future immediately. Despite his own notion, many people around him advises him to have a plan. They also insist he needs to stop being a bum and make something of himself. After all, this is the reason why he went to college. When the lyric, “And the sign said ‘The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls’” it is foreshadowing the abandonment of the relationship that Benjamin has with his parents. In addition, these lyrics contribute to his continued lack of words at the end of the film.
In the same vein, when the previous montage ends, viewers immediately are caught within another montage. The song being heard is “April Come She Will”. This song represents the various seasons of Benjamin’s relationship with Mrs. Robinson. Moviegoers immediately travel from Benjamin’s room into the hotel room where he and Mrs. Robinson have been meeting to maintain discretion. The lyrics speak volume in reference of his relationship with his parents’ neighbor. “When streams are rip and swelled with rain,” represents how easily smitten he become with Mrs. Robinson during their affair. Life continues being good in their relationship within the next month. In fact, this is exemplified visually and verbally reminded with the metaphor “she will stay, resting in my arms again.” By the time Benjamin has been laying around at his parents for some time and they begin to realize he’s not spending his time wisely. He begins to change because he is worried his parents will find out and think differently of him for the affair. Soon however, she will begin to change with him because her husband as well as the Braddocks’ begin to pressure him to go on a date with Elaine. Mrs. Robison does not desire him to do so, and wishes for him not to partake in ultimately because of their arrangement. Later on while Benjamin is lying on the bed, Mrs. Robinson can be seen pacing back and forth. As the director match cuts to his bedroom, the effect fades him back into a somber reality. Benjamin soon realizes that his romance is strictly a “summer” fling, by the lyric, “August, die she must” having “the autumn winds blow chilly and cold.” Once he comes to this realization, the relationship he has been partaking in with Mrs. Robinson he recalls his times with her recognizing that in “September I’ll remember, a love once new has now grown old” and their relationship will dissolve.
Aside from their relationship, the topic of war that could have been pushed in the film, is only briefly mentioned if one listens carefully to “Scarborough Fair.” While Benjamin visits Berkley’s campus green, audiences realize there are no students in protest. By the time he is sitting down at the fountain we hear the lyric, “Then she’ll be a true love of mine”. This is only after hearing, “Between the salt water and the sea strand (A soldier cleans and polishes a gun).” Granted, those lyrics are not in the literal sense of the war occurring overseas in Vietnam at the time. Instead they acknowledge Benjamin’s love life, which at the time might have been considered to be a war zone. The lyrics set viewers up for the battle of Benjamin’s life thus far, while emphasizing there is a war overseas and that the war is “for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten.” With a dissolve audiences can see the various students filling the campus green and sense the “battle scene” that awaits upon Benjamin if he chooses to date Elaine. “Are you going to Scarborough Fair?” is the lyric we hear upon seeing her. This is an interesting choice of lyrics because the lyric questions if Benjamin is attempting to fight for what he wants in life. As Benjamin realizes that Elaine has a life of her own now, he decides to merely run past her. In many ways, the imagery was meant to evoke the thought of running away from the draft.
No matter which side of the spectrum one is on, Benjamin’s world of self discovery or Mrs. Robinson’s world of yearning for something she never allowed herself to have in the first place, song lyrics help within all journeys within the film. In real life, most people have that one song they can remember playing on prom night or their school’s graduation song. Music is as much of a time stamp as visual imagery within our lives. In many ways, we would not have it any other way. With music accompanying us along our paths we think more in depth on subjects at hand and realize that sometimes a simple lyric is not a simple lyric when put into context of the time period and the visual accompaniment that often time comes along with us in life.
If you are interested in renting The Graduate, make sure to check out this title through Netflix, your local Austell Blockbuster, Videodrome, Movies Worth Seeing, or movie channels based upon your cable or satellite provider. To purchase any Blu-rays or DVDs mentioned in this review please check out your local Austell Best Buy, Walmart, Target, or Kmart.