The first time I watched The Graduate, it did not take long for me to realize that the movie would prove to be a lot different from what I had expected. All this revelation took was hearing the opening of The Sound of Silence and feeling its solemn mood. The music choice shows how multi-dimensional a song can be – a piece written about a national tragedy works just as well when presenting the movie’s aloof protagonist Benjamin Braddock. The 1967 film by Mike Nichols, with Dustin Hoffman in his breakthrough role as Benjamin, is iconic in part for its soundtrack and the use of songs by Simon & Garfunkel; what is so remarkable is that only one of these classics was actually written for the film. That one song is naturally Mrs. Robinson, a song that was not intended for the movie in the first place, not to mention the fact that it only appears as an early, short version on the soundtrack album, cut off as it is in the film.
On the album, Dave Grusin’s classy and jazzy – even if quite generic – score is represented almost as interludes for the actual songs. Were you to listen to the soundtrack without seeing the movie first, the impression of the music would probably be even more effective than within the dank context of the film. Paired with Simon & Garfunkel’s songs, Grusin’s score unmistakably represents the facade, with the duo’s work acting as the inner workings of the movie’s protagonist. Paul Simon’s lyrics – take April Come She Will for example – have a flair that is brimming with classic romanticism and therefore seems an unlikely match for a movie that met its match with particularly with the youngsters of the time, but at the same time it without a doubt represents the twisted, hopeless mind of Ben Braddock.
The Graduate soundtrack is a classic for a good reason. In a time where soundtracks compiled of pre-existing songs were not yet a given, it compiled old and new with a masterful touch. It reeks of the old times while offering a clear-headed vision of a new era. The soundtrack offers a whole new dimension to the movie when examined on its own, and it is one of the rare occasions when the ambitiousness of the musical choices corresponds with the realization.
4. Sunporch Cha-Cha-Cha *
5. Scarborough Fair/Canticle (Interlude)
6. On the Strip *
8. The Folks *
10. A Great Effect *
12. Whew *
13. Mrs. Robinson
14. The Sound of Silence
* Original score by Dave Grusin.