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Elements of Film: The Graduate

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Elements of Film is a way to compose every scene in a film and constitute the essence of film. There are five elements of film which is narrative, cinematography, sound, mise-en-scene, and editing. These five elements help determine the film and a way to judge a film. In the group of The Graduate, directed by Mike Nichols, can be determined and judged upon using those five specific elements that constitutes elements of film. Every movie can be determined by it as it also helps analyze a scene of the movie. In this case, The Graduate will be judged upon and explained through the elements.

The first Element of Film is the narrative. A narrative is similar to the plot of the movie but a narrative is talking about what the movie is, the characters and the world. The whole film follows the protagonist, Ben who is a recent college graduate that doesn’t really know what to do with his life. The whole film is basically portraying the struggles of Ben as he tries to find his purpose. He undergoes serious relationship struggles as he has an affair with a fellow family friend, Mrs. Robinson. Soon after he meets her daughter Elaine; he falls in love with her. A conflict is risen at this point as the relationship with Mrs. Robinson is known to both families. Elaine intends to marry another man but Ben arrives and steals her away from the altar. At the end, they both sit in the bus and the look on their faces is the reality of what happened. A narrative is more like story telling as it shows character development.

Second Element of Film is cinematography, which is basically ‘writing in movement’. It is the way the film was framed, toned and colored in its own way of photography. Examples of cinematography that was seen in the film and one of them is The Party. In that scene, the camera gave a response to the audience as it used claustrophobic close ups to the main character, Ben. It gives the audience the ‘suffocation’ feel that the character itself is feeling throughout the scene. Another example is the Bus scene towards the end. In that scene, the camera takes a long take where we get to see the actor’s performance (Dustin Hoffman who played Ben). The is able to take in the switch of panic as Ben still at the end of the movie, still doesn’t know what to do. Although earlier, Ben was eager to find Elaine and the way the cameras portrayed that made the audience feel the pressure and the time of the wedding clicking, as his he struggles through his journey. The cinematography in the film is great example of showing the audience and connecting them to the character.

The cinematography also leans heavily towards point of view. The scene in which Benjamin is floating in the pool on a sunny day and his parents and the Robinsons are staring down at him, the audience can see from Benjamin’s perspective as these four adult figures loom overhead and obstructing their expression. It depicts Benjamin’s lack of interest in becoming an adult. He is uncertain about life after college and is unwilling to come into terms with it. On Benjamin’s birthday party, he is standing in the kitchen wearing scuba diving suite with a mask and oxygen tank in which his father had purchased for him. As he is walking out toward the pool, the audience sees shots of Benjamin’s perspective as he looks through the goggle and all that can be heard is his own rhythmic breathing.

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This scene illustrates that Benjamin finds the advices, requests and demands of the elder to be incomprehensive, meaningless and boring. The partial view through the goggle is an indication of who Benjamin is as a person. He is an immature young man who only sees what is merely in front of him. The image of his father encouraging him towards the pool is reflective of his adolescent being steered to a purpose of accomplishment. Although unwilling, he is walking toward the pool not wanting to disappoint his parents. He is somewhat obeying his parent’s wishes, but in fact, Benjamin refuses to hear or comprehension what the adults has to say conveying his dissatisfaction with his comfortable sheltered life. His idea of living in a fish tank or under water is somehow comforting to him.

The sound is one of the most powerful aspects in film that has three components to it. Sound in film has sound effects, dialogue and music. Music usually shapes the feelings and the perceptions of a scene in a film to the audience. Dialogue and sound effects go together in a way that they are essential that helps us bring us to the world of the film itself. In The Graduate, it has a song called “The Sound of Silence” as it is used many times throughout the whole film. It helps us understand the character, Ben, as he tries to find himself in the film. The sound in the film mainly relates to Ben as it translates to his behavior, especially when he goes to search for Elaine.

Mise-en-scene is practically everything that appears in the films’ frame. Everything in the film counts for mise-en-scene. We can see it throughout the whole film of The Graduate. WHen Ben is in his car and when it stops out of gas, that signifies his search is over but he doesn’t give up. There is a motif in the film which is the song, “Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson” as it is played in the movie. That is another part of the mise-en-scene in the film. What I have noticed in this film, was that the director worked hard to put and try to incorporate ‘real’ life events in the film.

The last part of Elements of Film is editing. A editor of a film works hard to put the whole movie together from all the scenes. Editor is also responsible for cuts being made in the film; scenes as an audience don’t see. An example of editing is during the montage of The Graduate. There you can see how all the scenes connect to each other and how the music goes along with it. The whole scene shows how the film has captured Ben’s mood the whole time, how he’s drifting from one thing to the next. Its an example from transitions from one scene to the next.

Using Elements of Film to analyze films, makes us understand their true structure and how they incorporate a big part in the film industry. It is essential for us to understand them in order to understand the film most of the time. In this case, The Graduate was one of the films that was a bit easy to see and understand these elements. Of course for most of the scenes, it’s a bit tricky to point them out. In the end, we understand the true functions of the elements and we understand their purpose and the part they take in to make our movies as wonderful as they are now.

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Elements of Film: The Graduate. (2021, April 08). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
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