“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?”
The 19th November 2014 marked the sad day hearing the demise of Mike Nichols. As a cinema connoisseur it’s spirited reference and reminiscence of his exemplary work, particularly The Graduate, which still remains one of the youth iconic movies of all times. What’s more significant to mention about this man Mike Nichols with his career spanned more than 50 years, helmed films that became cultural representations. He was among the very few to take home all four major awards: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.
Nichols’ reflections on American life offered up some of the most memorable films and plays of the past five decades. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” released in 1966 indicated the arrival of a new talent Nichols, whose ability to switch from theater to screen direction recalled the multi-talented Orson Welles and Elia Kazan. Mike Nichols’s second movie- The Graduate was step further than his first; this movie put him on the map, and prior to the film. Nichols was a stage director and continued until his death with his popular work in the Broadway like “Barefoot in the Park”; “The Odd Couple” ; “Plaza Suite” ; “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” “Annie” “The Real Thing” ; “Death of a Salesman” to name the few.
The Graduate remains his special movie as he won Academy award for the best director category. His other popular films include “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”; “Catch-22”; “Carnal Knowledge”; “Silkwood”; “Working Girl”; “Birdcage”; and his final movie was “Charlie Wilson’s War”. Besides he was also awarded AFI’s Life Achievement Award in 2010. Mark Nichols remained a tall suite in his remarkable career with 42 Oscar nominations and seven awards.
The Graduate is, possibly, the decisive coming-of-age movie. With the sixties came a liberated attitude, ready to rebel against the conservatism which had gone before. The youth are faced with a choice between uncertainty and humdrum contentment or as easy drifting among societies expectations or is that the uncertainty!! The new young generation wanted its freedom at all cost. Newly affluent, it created a huge explosion for rock and blues with bands emerging such as The Doors, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel and Janis Joplin to name few. This movie is the pick of those times and concerns Benjamin Braddock, the character played by young Dustin Hoffman, going as twenty-one years old, an outstanding college student who returns home to California and is confronted with grand expectations. Benjamin’s parents and equally well-to-do peers expect great things from Ben, but Ben has other plans with his life to be different and something special. What means Ben, not to be like his dad as his father’s attitude remain questionable (never care) individual. Ben evidently uncomfortable evades those who try to congratulate him.
At a party held in his honor, Ben initiates conversation to the wife of his father’s law partner ‘Mrs. Robinson.’ Probing Benjamin to drive her home, she attempts to seduce him. She fails. But after the humiliation of a birthday party hosted by his parents, Benjamin calls Mrs. Robinson and agrees to an affair. Disregarding his rapidly increasing shame, Mrs. Robinson influences Benjamin into having sex by portraying his indecision of his inexperience, thus beginning their sexual relationship.
In that course over the summer, drifting around in the pool by day, and seeing Mrs. Robinson at the hotel by night. He is sickened by his affair only to talk about sex and nothing more, thus neglecting to select a graduate school. Though, Benjamin vexes her one evening about her dispassionate defiance, Mrs. Robinson reveals that she is in a unhappy marriage, her errantly pregnancy with her daughter Elaine, lead on her world-weariness. Both Mr. Robinson, who is unaware of his wife’s affair, and Benjamin’s parents encourage him to call on Elaine, an amazingly beautiful daughter. Benjamin is forced to date Elaine, but he intentionally tries to disrupt his first date with her by ignoring and driving carelessly taking her to a strip club, After Elaine runs out of the strip club in tears, Benjamin has a change of heart, comprehends and realize how rude he was to her, and discovers that Elaine is someone he is comfortable with and begins anew. The two discover a lot of common ground which results in the relationship.
The jealous Mrs. Robinson threatens Ben to reveal their affair to destroy any chance with Elaine. This incidence makes Ben to speak Elaine about his earlier affair with a married woman. Upset over hearing about Benjamin’s tryst with her mother, Elaine goes back to school and the Robinson family splits apart. Later, Benjamin tracks down Elaine, they deal with the past and talk of marriage. But Mr. Robinson intervenes, pulls Elaine out of school and coerces her to marry a college beau. Ben succeeds in locating the church, driving up and down of California, and here he’s late to stop the wedding. Calling out to his love, Elaine abandons her new husband and her parents. After an astonishing opposition, Elaine and Ben succeed in breaking out of the church. Run towards the road and without a way, finding the refuge on a bus and take the back seat, jubilant of their triumph, without a word, their original joy crops to embitterment as she looks to him for the direction, Ben’s stares blank and either way, Nichols has a message “a little worried about his future,”!! So the bus heads the way
The movie compliments the dialogues so spot-on. Especially one of those scenes of Elaine, who is evenhanded, a distraction from all of Ben’s problems, could be the one good thing in his future is that she’s no plastic, but flesh and blood. The movie explains so much of the youthful perplexity and everything Ben does is play, whether innocent or otherwise, which is heart rending in its most beautiful moments of the film. If you still closely see, all three characters, Ben, and Elaine, and Mrs. Robinson, want to break away.
What make so extraordinary about Mike Nichols crafty visual sense is his use of camera to the flourishing best, given the film which is seen from Benjamin’s perspective, each of the images expresses those youthful sprints. Most exceptional is the first montage, an intense visual representation of solitude. Then you have the affair montage, which is a glittering example of cinema’s underlying potential and rarely does the director use his chosen medium to do something to which artists in other media can only aspire and the five-minute montage pads the affair between Ben and Mrs. Robinson, rendering the summer not as a sequence of events, but a sequence of feelings. All in all ‘The Sound of Silence’ and ‘April, Come She Will.’ by Simon & Garfunkel is unforgettable and to this day, The Graduate drives us to the fountain of youth all over again…………
Mike Nichols in his own words “I began to see there was a world I could fit in”. I knew you can’t really be liked or loved if you’re perfect. You have to have just enough flaws. And he does. Farewell Mike being absolutely endearing.