The Graduate has a firm place in my top ten films of all times as it’s theme of youth and disillusionment make it relatable to just about everyone. It is also a film that is brilliantly shot and in this review I will look at three shots at the start of the film and how they show everything about the characters.

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The first and opening shot of the film begins as one of the closest shots in this film. We are thrown straight into a close-up of a bored looking Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) before pulling to show him surrounded by people who all seem similarly depressed. No-one in this shot moves or makes any sort of reaction… they all just look exhausted. This shot shows the audience not only Braddock’s feeling of isolation and lack of joy but also that of everyone around him. Everyone on the plane is feeling the same emotions and yet none of them are speaking… it is a great statement about society and how it’s conventions have destroyed us.

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The next shot of the film we see Braddock riding an airport travelator as the credits role. Braddock stands unmoving on the right of the frame, staring dead ahead and looking increasingly depressed. The framing of this shot is what makes it. In western culture we naturally look at things from left to right and generally expect things to move that way. By having Braddock positioned on the right and travelling right to left, the filmmakers are showing us straight away that he is going against the grain and is feeling lost. To back this up we also see various other people rush past him, nearly all of them going in the correct ‘left to right’ direction. The speed at which he moves along is also extremely important in this shot, as whilst everyone else moves forwards at pace, Braddock simply drift along in the same way his life is drifting along.

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Then following the credits we are shown Braddock again looking forlorn and silent in a mid-shot in front of the aquarium. Then the lights turn on and his father enters, taking a seat directly in front of Braddock and blocking the character from our view. By doing this we are seeing physically the pressure that Braddock’s parents are putting on him before they’ve even said a word. This makes the dialogue in the scene even more dramatic and really adds an extra dimension to the scene.

All of these shots that I’ve mentioned occur within the first four minutes of the film and it really astounds me the way in which the director piles on the sense of isolation and lack of direction. In five minutes we know exactly what the film is about and relate to the main character without him even have said a word. This sort of clever camerawork continues in a similar vein throughout the film but I do not have the time to break down the entire film, but The Graduate is a must see for any serious cinematographer as an example of how a camera can be used to convey meaning.

10/10