Saturday, September 6, 2014

Elephant (USA, 2003)

Nine Things About the Movie Elephant (USA, 2003)

1. This is Gus Van Sant’s minimalist interpretation of a school shooting. It was the second “school shooting” movie released after Columbine (that I know of). As an indie art film, this movie is decent. As a Van Sant film, it’s below average. As a depiction of the circumstances surrounding a school shooting, this movie is laughably terrible.

2. The young actors did a lot of open improvising as they did their scenes. You can tell. Just like there’s a certain self-conscious awkwardness to most performances, like they know they are being filmed and are trying not to look at the camera.

3. The movie is told non-linearly, jumping back and forth in time, showing various perspectives of different high school students as they roam the hallways on the last day of their lives.

4. The cinematography is kind of impressive, using long camera shots to piece the timeline together like a puzzle. But every frame is so tightly choreographed that it backfires and makes the whole “spontaneous” feeling of the movie seem really staged and artificial.

5. A lot of the movie just shows people walking around, acting kind of bored with life. Even after the shooting starts, people never really seem more than mildly concerned.

6. Even though it’s a big school there appear to be only 75 people in the whole building. And when they realize they are in mortal danger they run - or rather, walk more quickly - everywhere except for the exits.

7. The propaganda component of this movie is as subtle as the Hitler film the two school shooters are watching the day before they do their thing. The shooters are smart and sensitive - the leader even plays Beethoven on the piano and quotes Shakespeare as he starts his massacre.

8. I understand what Van Sant was trying to do with the shower kiss, but it came across as pandering and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the movie.

9. This movie could be shown to teenagers as a way to stop school violence. It makes shooting up a school seem so damn boring and pointless that kids will forget about their violent plans and go do something else.