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Elephant (2003) Poster

(2003)

Trivia

Jump to: Spoilers (4)
The school this was filmed at (Whitaker Middle School, formerly Adams High School in Portland, OR) was torn down in 2007 due to asbestos and black mold. The school had already been shut down when the film was shot.
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Based on a short story written by friend of Gus Van Sant and fellow writer/director Harmony Korine.
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Almost all the kids in this film are non-actors, and their real first names are used.
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There are approximately 88 shots in this film. More than half of those shots are in the last twenty minutes of the film.
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Much of the film was improvised.
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Most of the shots in the movie are very long and Steadicam-based. The shot of the three girls walking through the cafeteria is 5 minutes and 19 seconds long.
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The characters that appear in the video game played by Eric are from Gerry (2002).
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This film is heavily influenced by the Alan Clarke TV drama from 1989 of the same name (_"Elephant" (1989)_). Both films chronicle senseless killings and contain many long and wandering takes of its main characters.
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When we see Alex and Eric sleeping, we can see the cover of the book Eric has been reading: US Army Technical Manual #31-201-1, which covers the making and use of Incendiary devices.
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One of Tom Hanks' favorite movies.
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Despite what many critics and analysts have suggested since its release, the final film was not intended to be a pseudo-documentary about the Columbine massacre. While there's no doubt that the film was inspired by the tragedy, director Gus Van Sant meant for the film to be more of a reflection on the nature of violence and the effects of indifference. There's also a rumor that Van Sant's original intent was to make a TV film based on factual accounts of Columbine, but this rumor has remained unfounded. The film's minimalist approach, improvisational style and use of non-actors has helped to fuel these rumors over the years.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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The "So foul and fair a day" line is a quote from Macbeth.
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The original script draft was written by Laura Albert.
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The gun that Alex uses is a Bushmaster Carbon 15 Type 21 semi-automatic varmint rifle, and the gun that Eric uses is an Interdynamic KG-9 assault pistol.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Towards the end of the film, Alex drinks from a random glass in the abandoned cafeteria. This is a nod to an image from the CCTV surveillance footage from the actual Columbine Highschool massacre, where Eric Harris can be seen drinking from a glass found on a lunch table.
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Gus Van Sant borrowed the title from Alan Clarke's film of the same name, and thought that it referred to the Chinese proverb about five blind men who were each led to a different part of an elephant. Each man thinks that it is a different thing. What Clarke's title actually referred to was the idea of the "elephant in the room", where something is so obvious that to miss it would be the equivalent of not seeing a huge elephant in an ordinary room, yet is still not recognized out of either stupidity or willful ignorance. In this film, the "elephant in the room" is the homicidal rage of Alex and Eric, which leaves them free to precipitate the last-scene massacre at their school.
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This film, Gerry (2002) and Last Days (2005) form Gus Van Sant's "Death Trilogy", which he edited himself. This film centers on death at the hands of a stranger.
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At one point Alex and Eric watch a documentary about Hitler on TV. The Columbine High School massacre, upon which this film is based, occurred on April 20th 1999, the 110th anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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