The Use of Sound in the Graduate

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The use of sound in The Graduate

The movie The Graduate was a pioneer for the film industry in regards to its use of popular music as non-diegetic sound throughout the film. The Simon and Garfunkel sound track fit in very nicely to set the tone of the film and give the audience clues as to what the characters were feeling. Aside from the non-diegetic sound the diegetic sound was also used very effectively to express character emotions, in particular Ben’s emotions. Ben’s disconnect from society as a whole could have been discovered in the scene in which his father is having him present his birthday present; the use of sound was so strong it would not be difficult to completely understand the scene even without the visuals. The scene comes on with Ben’s father announcing to his guest that his son will be now presenting the gift which he bought him. Ben is not visible in the scene, but we do hear him. He is calling from inside his house to his father that he really wishes to have a word or so with his father before coming out to the presentation, but each time he asks his father just blows him off with a quick “yeah yeah” or “come on Ben.” At one point he even grants him 10 seconds to speak but never comes around to listen to Ben. As soon as Ben comes into the scene the audio switches. With your eyes closed you would think Darth Vader may have just come on the scene as Ben’s heavy and exaggerated breathing overwhelms your ears. If you continue to only listen to the scene the breathing will continue for around a minute then suddenly is interrupted by a splash. It is at that point where your ears will suggest to you that maybe Darth Vader did not just make a guest experience but in fact our character is in some sort of scuba gear. After the splash we then hear what sounds like repeated surfacing and then diving back under water. The breathing sound is replaced with bubbles and it is safe to assume that Ben is completely underwater at this point....
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