Don’t even LOOK at this Thread of you don’t want The Graduate spoiled for you!
I’ve seen The Graduate numerous times. Now, it’s got the famous soundtrack of Simon and Garfunkel tunes for which I’ve really only ever heard praise. However, it’s never really struck me.
Yeah, I like the tunes, but is it really a good soundtrack? It always just seemed like a tie-in cross-promotion kind of thing to me. It seems like it was “Hey, here’s a popular artist- we want our movie to be popular, let’s paste this popular music onto our movie!”
Now, I’ll reiterate: This is how it seems to me as I watch the movie. I actually don’t know the history of it. Were Simon and Garfunkel popular before the movie? Had these songs been released before being attached to the movie?
It really doesn’t seem to me like any of the songs were written specifically for the movie (with the exception of * Mrs. Robinson*- and that only based on the title matching a major character in name). If Paul Simon was hired to write songs specifically for this movie it doesn’t seem like he really took it very seriously. It seems like he just wrote songs that he would have written anyway.
Now I’m not suggesting that the soundtrack is bad, I just don’t think it’s very good.
What do you guys think? Does it work as a soundtrack? Why do you like it or dislike it?
We open with a close-up of Ben and a voice over: “We are now beginning our descent into Los Angeles.”
Sounds of Silence
This works. It does actually help to introduce you to the character. It sets up his feelings of isolation and alienation. The music works well in particular while he is riding on the automated walkway in the airport- it makes him seem like a sleepwalker, which in many ways he is.
At Ben and Mrs. Robinson’s first meeting in the Hotel room. As Ben closes the door to begin the sexual romp, the screen goes dark and we get a reprisal of
Sounds of Silence,
during which there is a montage showing Ben going through a mundane daily routine then meeting in the hotel room for routine sex. We’re still doing pretty well. We’re reminded of how we were introduced to Ben as a lonely detached character- this is intensified as we see him lonely and detached in an activity that should be intimate.
The montage continues into
April Come She Will.
Now we’re starting to slip. The tone of the song no longer matches the tone of the story. This is too pretty a song to have here- yes the lyrics tell a sad story but the melody is too light and airy. And the lyrics don’t work either in that they tell a story of a love that grows then fails- but Ben and Mrs. Robinson never shared love to begin with. There’s a superficial match in that the lyrics recount a passage of time while the montage communicates a passage of time, but this connection is so superficial as to actually hurt it.
Elaine finds out about Ben and her Mother.
Elaine: “Get out!”
Mrs. Robinson: “Goodbye, Benjamin.”
with a montage of a lonely Ben stalking the Robinson house. This is the first time Ben has been forced to face reality but it’s placed with a very dreamy song. Neither the lyrics nor the tune are a complete mismatch with the story and images, but they don’t match all that wonderfully either.
Ben determines to marry Elaine and as we watch him drive to Berkley we hear
Again! We just fucking heard it! Seriously, less than two minutes have passed- maybe even less than a minute, just a few lines of dialog. Now we have to listen to the same song again. And again it’s too dreamy. He’s just determined to marry a girl who hates him- there’s should be more of a sense of urgency. And the link between the “Are you goin’ to” lyrics with an image of a character who’s “goin’ to” someplace is, again, too superficial a link to be effective.
Ben accompanies Elaine to the Zoo, where she meets her date and they leave Ben at the Monkey House.
Again! Fucking Again! As Elaine and her date walk off the song starts with a shot of Ben standing alone at the Monkey House- in the background there is a sign that reads: DO NOT TEASE. That’s how I feel at this point- like I’m being teased. Scarborough Fair has been well worn out by now.
Elaine shows up at Ben’s room. They have a fight, Elaine leaves.
Scarborough FUCKING Fair!
It’s just an instrumental this time, but still it’s pretty annoying.
Ben has worn down Elaine’s resistance slightly and he is trying to get her to agree to marry him.
Just an instrumental, with some whistling. Pretty good. The melody is bright and kinda happy, Ben is happy at this point. Works well enough.
Mr. Robinson shows up, confronts Ben, and announces that he is taking Elaine away and that Ben is not to see her again. Ben is on the road again back to L.A. to try to catch Elaine.
Again, and instrumental. This time mostly the acoustic guitar with that dug duga duga duga, duga dug dug strum. It makes for good chase music. It’s music for a man on a mission.
Ben get to L.A., confronts Mrs. Robinson who tells him that Elaine is not there. Back in the car for the drive to Berkley.
dug duga duga duga, duga dug dug, this time with vocals on the refrain. Again, this works as chase music and the lyrics on the refrain, immediately after the confromtation with Mrs. Robinson, add a bit of taunting and defiance directed at Mrs. Robinson.
Elaine’s fiancé’s fraternity brothers direct Ben to Santa Barbara. Back in the car and the chase resumes so we again are treated to
All this repetition of Mrs. Robinson works much better than the repetition of Scarborough Fair. In this case we never get the full song, it’s just short bursts of the dug duga duga duga, duga dug dug which actually move the action along quite nicely. Finally we get to the point where Ben runs out of gas and the dug duga duga duga, duga dug dug slows down as his car comes to a stop. This is the only point where it seems like Paul Simon actually paid attention to what he was scoring.
Ben disrupts the wedding. He and Elaine flee and hop onto the bus and take a seat in the back.
Sounds of Silence
The same song that opened the movie closes it. Pretty good in that we again are reminded about Ben’s disconnectedness at what could’ve been a conventional happy ending. The happy ending is made less certain by the music along with Mike Nichols’ choice to hold the final shot of Ben and Elaine, neither of whom seem secure or connected or certain.
In all, we’ve got four songs for the entire movie. “April Come She Will” is the only song that does not get repeated. The others, in a way, split the movie into three sections: There’s the “Sounds of Silence” section, the “Scarborough Fair” section, and the “Mrs. Robinson” section.
The coffee house folk music doesn’t accurately represent the world of the characters to me. We’re watching two wealthy conservative families from the San Fernando Valley. The sixties folk scene is so far removed from this setting, it’s almost the exact opposite of what it should be: “I’ve got one word for you- PLASTICS.”
So, there’s my analysis. What do you think?