Elephant: never forget
early scene in Elephant depicts a young photography student asking two
punked-out teens for their permission to be observed by his camera. In what could
have resulted in a flurry of "fuck off's" and a lens dripping with spit,
the photographer's disarming demeanor puts the two at ease, allowing him to capture
the love underneath their shell of leather. Off camera somewhere, Gus Van Sant
quietly nods in approval of his young student's practice of this technique.
am in the fortunate position of reviewing this movie relatively late in the game,
absorbing as many negative reviews as possible in order to dismiss them all in
one lethal review. But alas, that is not my style. Compassion for the misunderstood
and misinformed will be my AK-47. What seems to be the overwhelming negative outcry
here is "why?" Why would kids declare war on their school and why would
someone film it without telling us why? My answer to these critics is simple.
You tell me.
Don't believe that the artistically inclined (or financially
backed) are the only ones with enough brain power to solve our social ills. You
too may speak up if you feel you have some clue to solve this crisis. I invite
all said critics to take a look back at the movie and see if anything pulls the
fire alarm of understanding.
Maybe you found yourself coughing and clearing
your throat a lot when our little killers watched nazis on TV, played violent
first person shooter video games, and ordered machine guns over the internet?
So there you have it guys! You have unknowingly provided yourself with your own
answers, with a little assistance from me of course. Good job, you may now leave
this imaginary theater and carry with you a new heightened sense of self-esteem.
Now for those who have yet to see this movie, let me ask you this: "Do
you like to be told what to feel?" If you need Michael Moore to pull a bullet
out of a Happy Meal to understand McDonald's sucks, than don't bother. A cast
made of regular high school kids play out an improvisational script centered around
a high school massacre similar to Columbine. Elephant is a series of long,
carefully constructed scenes that allow the viewer to be absorbed in the film
while we ponder the expirience. What I experienced was a mixture between empathy,
dread, and respect.
The movie follows a select few students as they attend
a generic suburban high school. Timelines from these characters intertwine near
the last minutes leading up to the shooting. The dialogue is very realistic and
the non-actors make it even easier to believe the performances. Even though you
already know what awaits and Van Sant gives you more than ample time to accept
this, the movie's impact is unstoppable, hence the title. Well that's what I'd
like to believe anyway and I'm sticking to it.
I had a unique reaction
upon first viewing the Columbine High School shooting as it interrupted regular
programming. I'm almost ashamed to say it didn't surprise me, in much the same
way some Arab muslims understand the act of terrorism. We don't endorse it , but
we understand how it can happen. I'd be lying if I denied the thought of blowing
up my school a few times.
Through these students, Van Sant is able to
define a nice portion of today's American high school youth. There's the kid with
the drunk dad, the girl who never wears shorts, the guy that likes taking his
shirt off, the girls that think he's hot, the artsy kid, the girls that hate lunch
and the two picked on, pissed off kids. I was in the latter group. The sound of
a packed high school cafeteria can evoke hell to some. If your going to make kids
stay in school, you need to make it comfortable to attend. That was what I felt
was the answer before viewing the movie, but it showed me it's not that simple.
As I hovered over the shoulder of these teenagers through the hypnotic
halls and eavesdropped on their conversations I found my self trying figure which
ones would cross the paths of Alex and Eric (the killers). I even hoped for some
more than others, but found no justice there. I'm just glad that Van Sant allows
us to feel these emotions with out insulting the audience¹s intelligence.
We must eventually realize that these are mere kids and everyone knows how difficult
and strange the world seems during those formative years. Once you accept this
you'll see there are no easy answers.To appreciate Elephant we must first
accept it for what it is: a beautiful horror movie.