When Benjamin has an affair with Mrs. Robinson, an older, married woman, the film shows a montage of activities of the two of them together, rather than a linear sequence of events. The fact that the sexual relationship is occurring is what is significant to the narrative, more so than what the two characters do together. This is in contrast to “Rashomon” where what occurred, and in what order, is significant, as it gives clues as to what the characters motivation and participation in the events recounted may have been.
The Graduate” makes particularly innovative use of temporal duration in the famous final sequence, where Benjamin interrupts Katherines wedding. In terms of scenic pacing, although both actions occur at the same time, the wedding seems to be evolving in a slow and stately fashion, quietly taking place, while Benjamin runs down the street, frantically trying to prevent the love of his life from making a terrible mistake. One sequence feels very fast and excited, like Benjamins nervous energy and movement, the other is slow and plodding, what Katherines life will be if she marries the conventional man selected by her parents. Transposing both sequences that occur during the same period of time creates more of a sense of excitement, because it shows that every moment counts in Benjamins mad dash, or he might be too late and Katherine might be trapped in a life of slow, airless convention.
However, as striking as “The Graduate” may be in its anti-establishment viewpoint and selection of scenes to make the older generation seem slow, out-of-touch, and stifling to youthful creativity, in terms of cinematic technique it is “Rashomon” that is truly striking. “The Graduate” has a clear narrative perspective and directorial intent, to satirize the plastic environment of the suburbs and ideals of American capitalist achievement, and to champion the anti-establishment ethos of the future generation. Kurosawas “Rashomon takes a deeper philosophical perspective and questions if there is any truth at all, if there is any way of knowing anything for certain about what happened in the past and present. Versus the objective truth about the older generations boorishness in “The Graduate,” there is no objective truth in “Rashomon,” one reason that this older film feels more postmodern to 21st century eyes.
The Graduate.” Directed by Mike Nichols. 1967.
Rashomon.” Directed by Akira.