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The Graduate

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Submitted By arcsecant
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Pool Sequence of ‘The Graduate’

“Well, I would say that I’m just drifting. Here in the pool.” says Benjamin Braddock to his father halfway through Mike Nichols’ film The Graduate. Water, and the pool itself become an integral part of Benjamin’s character and it allows the viewer a window into his psyche. None more so, than during the backyard party held by his parents and their friends for his 21st birthday where Benjamin is forced to don a scuba suit and demonstrate its uses. The beautifully crafted sequence clearly illustrates his frame of mind and the divide he feels between himself and the older adults in his life. Throughout the film Ben is reluctant to morph himself to fit into the mold that his father sees as being the appropriate way to transitions into adulthood. Ben’s reluctance and Mr. Braddock’s persistence is clearly evident in the pool sequence. Ben is embarrassed to leave the solace of the house in the silly scuba gear while his father is keen on showing off his son to his friends. Due to heavy coercion, Ben finally emerges from the house with the wet suit and we see through his point of view which is very restricted because of the scuba mask. All Ben can see is the partygoers cheering him on to take a dive into the pool. This technique along with the lack of sound is highly effective in illustrating Ben’s feeling of claustrophobia and isolation that suburban society forces onto him. The sound before the POV shot is of Mr. Braddock’s voice hyping up the situation and of applause from everyone at the party which then cuts to silence during the POV shot. The jarring silence only further accentuates the contrast between poor Ben and the adults. Ben can see their mouths moving but all he can hear is his deep and heavy breathing which further suggests the suffocation that he is suffering under the pressures of his family and their way of life. When Ben finally plunges into the pool we don’t hear his heavy breathing anymore but only bubbles and the sloshing of water. Ben tries to resurface from the pool only to be pushed back under by his father. A clear gesture of ignoring Ben’s wishes and forcing him deeper into expectations that are not his own. In the final shot the camera moves away from Ben as he is stranded in a corner at the bottom of the pool, fading out of focus. A powerful shot where his isolation and need to make a emotional connection with another human being is evident. The overall technique of POV during the pool sequence is highly effective in conveying Ben’s emotional and psychological state of mind. Nichols’ decision to limit the audiences senses just as Ben’s are limited provides the viewers a direct gateway into Ben’s feelings. We are forced into Ben’s shoes which helps us identify with him. Surely everyone knows the daunting feeling of having external expectations thrust upon them and the POV sequence taps into those subconscious feelings. Nichols’ paints Ben in a way that garners immediate sympathy because viewers can undoubtedly relate with him, a luxury that Ben doesn’t have in the film.

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