A story of amour fou. Walt is madly in love/lust with a young illegal Mexican immigrant. However, the object of his unrequited affection doesn't even speak any English and finds Walt really... See full summary »
A day in the lives of a group of average teenage high school students. The film follows every character and shows their daily routines. However two of the students plan to do something that the student body won't forget. Written by
I remember the fuss that surrounded this obscure movie upon release. How dare a film-maker, even one like Gus Van Sant, make a film based around the tragic shooting at Columbine? I suspect that most people's fears were based around what the film might be like. Would the murderers be defended? Would the violence be explicit or glorified? Perhaps they should have taken a moment to watch this film which treats its subject matter with the respect and gravitas it deserves.
The film introduces us to several high school kids and follows them around during a normal school day. Frequently, the film overlaps itself as each character interacts with others or visits the same location other characters are doing their bit in. Groups of girls gossip in the canteen, a wannabe photographer develops his prints, a shy girl helps out in the library after a physical education lesson. Only when the horrible truth of what is to come becomes clear does the film's terrifying core reveals itself.
There is no doubt that this is a powerful film, despite almost nothing happening until the final reel. All the actors are unknowns, the dialogue is largely improvised and the soundtrack is reduced to a simple piano tune played by one of the participants. But because you know what is to happen, you remain fixed on the characters milling around doing nothing - imagine "Big Brother" but with the added thrill of knowing that something sick and evil is coming. If anything, it becomes worse when the two gunmen begin to reveal themselves and their plan to the viewer. I found myself wishing I could step in the screen and stop them and it is a long time since any film made me care that much. It is quite strange how time seems to ebb by so slowly, especially as the tragedy unfolds.
The violence is never glorified or justified, merely portrayed as though it were actually happening before your eyes. It will almost certainly have greater resonance among American viewers as it displays the dark side of U.S. gun laws. How many more schools must suffer tragedies such as this before something is changed? It took Britain just one such incident before some of the most strict gun laws in the world were introduced. The film is almost pleading through the screen: would you still back our gun laws if this happened at your school or your child's school?
It has to be said that "Elephant" is a difficult film to watch, the sense of unease growing in the viewer as everyone in the film carries on as normal. I think that rather than exploit Columbine, Gus Van Sant has treated the memory of those who died with respect and honour. Admittedly, the film has it's faults. The ending felt rushed and confusing and the pace throughout is dreadfully slow, probably to allow the full extent of what's happening to sink in. There is no doubt that "Elephant" has more than a message at its heart - it is a powerful tribute to the pupils and teachers who died that day at Columbine High School. Never forget.
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