There a few very special films out there that make use of a single artist as the driving force on their soundtracks. Hal Ashby's HAROLD AND MAUDE immediately comes to mind with it's excellent application of Cat Stevens throughout its running time. There's a certain organic cohesiveness that comes from this kind of uniformity of music and voices that really pulls everything together in a lovely way. I have a similar feeling about music in film trailers. By this I am speaking of when a single song is used throughout the trailer (as opposed to cutting between lots of different pieces of music). It really allows the viewer a more immersive experience. The same goes for using a single artist in a film. Once you have entered the world of THE GRADUATE, the Simon and Garfunkel music helps maintain that universe. From the beginning shot of Benjamin Braddock moving through in LAX whilst Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" plays, we immediately get a sense of the tone of the film. There is melancholy to the music, but even amidst that, Mike Nichols continues to keep the sounds of the airport and the voice from the loudspeakers there going throughout the song. He could have dropped all the sound out except for the song, but he doesn't. It's a very specific and interesting choice and Nichols makes masterful use of sound throughout the film. The music often carries between disparate scenes, marrying them together in the same dreamscape of a cinematic space. THE GRADUATE was also one of the earliest movies that showed me the importance and effectiveness of elegant transitions from one scene to the next. Film is of course a visual medium, so it only makes sense that one of the great things you can do with it is to make interesting jumps from one scene to another. I always find it the sign of a classy filmmaker when I see the time and effort put into nice transitions. I was just watching Steven Spielberg's most recent effort BRIDGE OF SPIES the other day and I was certainly aware of the way he moved from one scene to the next. THE GRADUATE is, as I said, ground zero for this kind of thing for me and I always come back to is as it contains so many nice examples of what a filmmaker can do in terms of this kind of thing. Nichols is in excellent form though as a director throughout THE GRADUATE and he exemplifies so many neat and stylish choices with his camera placement (and general use of a widescreen frame), editing, and music. It's really a movie that all film students should certainly be shown as a potential point of inspiration when they are thinking of directing a movie.
Vanity Fair ran a fascinating piece on the making of THE GRADUATE back in 2008. I highly recommend reading it:
-New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Optional 5.1 surround remix, approved by director Mike Nichols, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray.
-Audio commentary from 1987 featuring film scholar Howard Suber.
-New interview with actor Dustin Hoffman.
-New conversation between producer Lawrence Turman and screenwriter Buck Henry.
-New interview with film writer and historian Bobbie O’Steen about editor Sam O’Steen’s work on The Graduate.
-Students of “The Graduate,” a short documentary from 2007 on the film’s influence.
-“The Graduate” at 25", a 1992 featurette on the making of the film.
-Interview with Nichols by Barbara Walters, from a 1966 episode of NBC’s Today show.
-Excerpt from a 1970 appearance by singer-songwriter Paul Simon on The Dick Cavett Show.
-PLUS: An essay by journalist and critic Frank Rich
Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft in a publicity still for THE GRADUATE.