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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

The Graduate

Lance Mannion at Newcritics has some interesting things to say about one of the seminal films of the sixties. Here he examines The Graduate’s famously ambiguous ending:.

Having fled the church where Elaine’s just gotten married to the pipe-smoking cipher her parents have chosen for her, Ben and Elaine hop on a bus going…nowhere as far as we know…and take a seat together at the far back. But instead of falling into each other’s arms as any pair of runaway lovers might be expected to do or talking excitedly about what they’ve just done and what they’re going to do now, they just sit there, side by side, silent, barely touching, without looking at each other—their timing is off, when Elaine turns to Ben, he’s not looking at her, when he looks at her, she’s turned away, and finally they give up trying to meet each other’s eyes and lose themselves in their separate thoughts. Eventually, Ben’s face goes completely blank. He wears the same empty, anesthetized expression he was wearing on the airplane in the opening shot of the film, and the credits roll.
This is a happy ending?
When asked what happens to Ben and Elaine now, director Mike Nichols is said to have replied, They become their parents.

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