[Scott discusses a famous film moment, and I ask a question at the end.]
Here's the clip of the last few minutes of The Graduate just to refresh everyone's memory.
Last week I posted “Sound of Silence” at the end of The Graduate as my all-time favorite ending music for a film. This is because, the moment that the song enters, the ending is transformed from typical happy ending into a far more poignant moment that would become symbolic of the uncertainty of an entire generation.
The final few minutes of The Graduate has become one of the most parodied/homaged sequences in film history and the basic trope of this ending has become one of the most imitated. Countless romantic comedies have ended with a boy/girl rushing to stop the wedding/departure/bar mitzvah of the object of their affection. This can be seen in movies as diverse as Crocodile Dundee, Runaway Bride, My Best Friend’s Wedding and pretty much every other Julia Roberts vehicle.
The difference in The Graduate comes about in that final thirty seconds before the credits roll. First of all, there is the use of “Sound Of Silence”, not only is this song far from celebratory in its tone but it has also served as a theme of uncertainty and lack of direction throughout the film. Then, we also have that moment where Ben and Elaine stare forward and take a deep breath before the smiles slowly fade from their faces. I once heard this referred to as the movie’s “Oh, Shit!” moment. This is the moment where the consequences of their actions finally set in; both have become so desperate to escape their past that they are willing to burn every bridge behind them by storming out of the wedding. They have also invested a great deal of their future happiness in one another, in a relationship that still has a lot of issues that need to be worked out, mainly, that they don’t even really know each other that well (they’ve had one date and a few days of Ben pestering Elaine), not to mention the fact that he had and affair with her mother. It is only in the final few seconds, however, that they realize all of this. Their only hope is that their future life, however uncertain, is better than the lives that they are leaving behind.
Had the movie ended thirty seconds earlier, it still would have been a great movie, perhaps it would still even be a classic but those final seconds that turn all the conventions of ‘Happily Ever After’ on its ear, beautifully emphasized through the use of “Sound of Silence”, are what truly make this film a masterpiece.
[Here is my question -- this moment is so famous, but I cannot, off the top of my head, really think of many films that have learned from it, incorporated it, revised it, or played with it in any way other than parody. Maybe there are tons, but they are not coming to me. What am I missing?]