My greatest fear is that, as with films such as "Irreversible", there are people who will find "Elephant" enjoyable. Not only is it not enjoyable, I'm inclined to believe anyone who thinks it is needs to seek help as soon as possible. It is an interesting study, but not one I plan on revisiting any time soon.Elephant begins, introducing a series of high school students. John has to take over the driving for his drunk father, who is taking him to school. Elias asks to photograph a Goth couple as he walks across a park. Nathan and Carrie walk across the school football field to the sounds of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. The introductions continue as the unavoidable questions arise. Who are the killers and who is going to die?
The first question is answered soon enough and the second is kind of beside the point, particularly when the film is based on true incidents. Elephant is Gus Van Sant's (To Die For) take on the 1999 events at Columbine High School. The film was made for broadcast on HBO, but also was presented at several film festivals and had a short, limited theatrical run. It is made in the Verité style, simply following several students as they pass the few hours before the murders, and basically offers no attempt at answers. It does take a few dramatic liberties and alters some details a bit.
What Van Sant has created is a completely intriguing, profoundly unsettling film. It is not gratuitous. In fact, the final minutes are not made to look realistic, but more like a student film. The effects as students are systematically murdered are cheap and curiously undramatic. There are no earth shattering explosions as the assault weapons are fired, only a much more realistic pop, as if from a small firecracker. This creates a surprisingly disturbing result, which I can only guess was Van Sant's intention. (This review originally appeared on Slacker-Reviews.com)This is a fine film, but one I hesitate to recommend without great caution.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.