The Graduate

Graduated Distortion: Welles’ Influence on Nichols College

The technical innovations of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane range from the depth of focus to his lightning mix. He utilized graphic and acoustic matches to depict the narrative of a man’s meteoric rise to power and his painful slip into oblivion. Director Mike Nichols implements many of Welles’ tools to create the world of Benjamin Braddock’s affair in The Graduate. With these techniques the director creates a distortion of the narrative and their characters, but through this distortion paradoxically comes a clarity that illuminates subtle meanings, which contribute to the larger symbolic fabric of the film.

In the beginning of Citizen Kane, a snow globe rolls out of the recently lifeless fingers of Charles Foster Kane and shatters. The next shot comes from a low vertical perspective with a fish-eye view through the broken globe glass as a nurse walks into the room to attend to Kane. A similar distortion occurs in The Graduate, except this time it is shot through a fish tank after Mrs. Robinson devilishly tosses Ben’s car keys into the tank’s water. Both objects that create the distortion have symbolism in the films: the snow globe of Kane symbolizes his childhood, while Ben’s fish tank symbolizes the constraints of the upper...

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