Dark comedy and tonnes of suicide jokes mask over what is in fact a cleverly masked parody of The Graduate (1967).

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Harold and Maude is one of the strangest pieces of cinema you can find. It is a film that doesn’t follow any rules. It is haunting, happy, hilarious, emotional, silly and intellectual all at the same time; in a world of any sense it just wouldn’t work as a film. It would be too weird for an audience to accept, or too dark or too offensive. Yet somehow the film surpasses all of it’s obstacles and becomes one that is greatly regarded and hugely entertaining.

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And why does it work so well? In my opinion its because Harold and Maude is the same film as the Graduate just with a much darker and more comedic tone. On so many levels the films are exactly the same. The plot of both films for instance shows a young, male lead struggling to cope with their lives and finding meaning from an affair with an older woman. Both of the lead characters have over-pressurising parents who want them to marry, they both spend a lot of the film driving around and both films have a soundtrack created by a famous performers (albeit Simon & Garfunkel do a better job than Cat Stevens).

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The main difference between the films comes in the subtlety. Whilst the Graduate is heavily reliant on performances and hidden meaning, Harold and Maude is much more in your face. It’s messages about death, life and relationships are obvious and it embraces this; using a flower metaphor to essentially sum up everything the filmmakers want to say.

Harold and Maude also has an ending that does not lack ambiguity, Harold has been on a journey and at the end of the film it is clear that he has ‘seen the light’ and will most likely have a better life; whereas The Graduate has a completely ambiguous ending.

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Despite these differences though the similarities between the two films is clear and ridiculously obvious… it’s just Harold and Maude manages to hide behind it’s comedy.

8/10