The year was 1967, the counter-culture movement was at an all time high. The Summer of Love had just happened and Mike Nichols’ The Graduate was released in December of that year. The movie was a hit, on a budget of just three million, it made over thirty times what it cost to produce. It also is so undoubtedly part of that era of America. The cars that the characters drive, his parents and the Robinson’s respective houses, and the Simon and Garfunkel filled soundtrack.
So many things could have gone wrong while making The Graduate. Anne Bancroft was only six years Dustin Hoffman’s senior. But, through makeup, they made Bancroft look like someone in her forties rather than her real age of thirty-five. Hoffman was reluctant to audition for the role because he did not feel like he fit the part well enough. In his 2015 interview about the making of The Graduate, he recalled that thought Robert Redford fit the role much better than he did. (At least how the novel described Benjamin Braddock) Luckily, Hoffman was eventually convinced by director Mike Nichols to come and audition. On the musical end, Simon and Garfunkel were supposed to write new material for this movie but when approached by Nichols about the music they had, all that had was their now popular track “Mrs. Robinson“. The rest of the soundtrack was music from their newly released album Sounds of Silence. BBC film critic Mark Kermode has mentioned that the movie has an “accidental soundtrack”. And somehow songs like “The Sound of Silence”, “Scarborough Fair”, and “April Come She Will” have become synonymous with The Graduate and it is hard to think of a world where these songs existed before this film was released.
The gorgeous and colorful cinematography certainly helps the Graduate. A scene I always find myself re-watching is the scene were Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) and Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) first sleep together at the Taft Hotel. “The Sound of Silence” starts playing as we see the characters continue their affair as Benjamin drifts in the pool then “shuts the door on his parents” metaphorically before he sleeps with Mrs. Robinson again. The music ends and “April Come She Will” begins to play in the background as a way to direct the scene. The placement of the song is to show how much time is passing by. This time, the music ends with the transition of Benjamin jumping onto a raft which cuts to him jumping into bed with Mrs. Robinson.
The ending of The Graduate has the camera linger of the faces of Benjamin and nearly-wed Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross) on the bus they catch after they run away from the church where Elaine was to be married at. Their smiles eventually dissipate. Did they make a mistake? If so will they admit to it? The ending it then followed by a third use of “The Sound of Silence” possibly representing what is to come in the future of Elaine and Ben’s relationship.