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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.92%
Just Average: 4.82%
Pretty Crappy: 8.43%
Sucks: 14.46%

7 reviews, 41 user ratings

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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"'...that's when I reach for my revolver'"
4 stars

Gus Van Sant's latest took Best Film and Best Director honors at this year's much-maligned Cannes festival, and I've heard some mumblings that ELEPHANT got the big prizes only due to a dearth of competition. Well, I'm here to dispel the rumors; this is a strong, uncompromising, oddly beautiful film that deserves its laurels.

Inspired by the Columbine shootings (though it is not a recreation), ELEPHANT follows several students over the course of a deceptively "typical" day at an Oregon high school--a day that will eventually end in violence.

The tone is muted; Van Sant rapidly establishes the low-key mood with long tracking shots, electing simply to follow these kids as they make their way up and down the school hallways, their individual lives briefly criss-crossing at random intervals. For much of the running time, not much of anything really "happens." This is the sort of thing that tends to annoy the MTV generation, but it's refreshing just to be able to look at things, to be able to observe without being prodded by obtrusive editing or overbearing soundtracks.

The key to ELEPHANT lies in the apparent pointlessness of its events. This is, after all, the way most of us live--it's not very Hollywood, but it's true to the facts of day-to-day existence. Even the teenage killers seem like typical kids; when they're preparing to blow away their classmates, chatting about nothing in particular, they don't come across as all that different from the bullimic girls who spend their day in nonstop gossip mode. These boys aren't symbols of national decay or insurgent fascism. They're just kids. And though they never realize it, they have a lot in common with their peers. ELEPHANT brings to mind Hannah Arendt's famous observation about the banality of evil.

Van Sant sensationalizes nothing; very little in this film is done for "effect," and this gives the film its power. (He possibly missteps with all that cliche darkening-cloud imagery, but that's a minor point.) Scenes tend to begin and end almost arbitrarily; sometimes Van Sant (who also edited) even cuts away in the middle of a sentence.

The effect of all this is haunting; this is easily one of the most sheerly memorable films of the year.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8236&reviewer=223
originally posted: 10/24/03 21:33:48
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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.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell disturbing & well made 4 stars
10/11/10 Simon Unforgivable flaws in characters and gratuitousness, yet directed so artfully and chilling 3 stars
7/30/06 Davina Interesting, though not for everyone. 4 stars
5/28/06 jean Claude this is a fucking film 1 stars
4/13/06 Glenda Each scene is thought-provoking and crucial. Routine day gone bad. Almost like a nightmare. 5 stars
4/10/06 Jonathan What interesting cinematography, ive never seen anything like it before. 4 stars
12/21/05 Titus Two gay teenage Nazi's admirers take their happy revenge on a typical high-school. classic. 4 stars
11/14/05 Hyde Japan A moving tribute to those who suffer the random violence afforded by a gun-obsessed society 5 stars
10/18/05 Agent Sands Few movies dare to portray a school shooting like action sequences, if at all. 4 stars
10/13/05 Dekeeshia I had to force myself to stay interested, but the movie did leave me with profund curiosity 4 stars
10/13/05 christopher love the walking scenes! gives you time to think about whats to come on this 'normal' day 4 stars
9/17/05 Brian Horrible acting. Majority of the movie is just watching the characters WALKING. 1 stars
5/05/05 ELI Jesus... this is a happy-go-lucky movie. 4 stars
1/31/05 Wendy S. Excellent and thought provoking. 4 stars
1/05/05 Katie really f*cking stupid - trying to hard to make a point and missed 2 stars
12/29/04 Liora eric frost was sexy. i loved the gay shower scene. 5 stars
12/06/04 Kurt Cobain Chilling.... 5 stars
11/15/04 Zel just... not that good.... didnt see the point 3 stars
8/29/04 tank wish the motives would have been better established good other wise 4 stars
7/30/04 DM Haunting, and has something to say (unlike "Gerry") 5 stars
7/09/04 MorallySound Haunting. 5 stars
6/21/04 Dick Logan Cannot believe anybody liked this; Exploited Columbine in an attempt for GVS to daring. 1 stars
6/14/04 A F Very well shot. This style only works if it is done right. 5 stars
6/13/04 MyGreenBed Having the two be gay (also the vomit scene) only muddles an otherwise very worthy film. 4 stars
6/01/04 tatum Van Sant scores another one, creepy 5 stars
5/16/04 j Good movies like this are rare anymore 5 stars
5/07/04 gray why oh why did they have the anti-hero's be gay? 5 stars
5/05/04 TGD Amazing 5 stars
4/27/04 Roman Ostrovsky I was in Elephant I played the Red Head Kid. Gus is a great director to work with. He is so 3 stars
3/28/04 Paul a magnificent movie 5 stars
3/28/04 Jean experiMENTAL nightmare, i liked it, a lot 5 stars
1/17/04 fliss + matt elephent? they should have called this one sloth. 1 stars
12/31/03 Edler Outrageous! Outrageous! Outrageous! Outrageous! Outrageous! 1 stars
12/24/03 Kyle Wow. 5 stars
11/27/03 RomanPOstrovksy/The Red Head Kid/ It was Great playing the Red Head kid in Elephant. 5 stars
11/16/03 Daniel Provost Great movie... 5 stars
11/12/03 DM Utterly amazing- boring at first but builds to a mind-blowing climax 5 stars
10/27/03 Serious George It's about everything in-between. It's about what's missing. It 5 stars
10/22/03 Britta Erickson couldn't be a more unnecessary film 1 stars
10/10/03 Lynn Bredeson Elephant is a great movie if you have lived the life of these students. 4 stars
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  24-Oct-2003 (R)
  DVD: 04-May-2004



Directed by
  Gus Van Sant

Written by
  Gus Van Sant

  Alex Frost
  Eric Deulen
  John Robinson
  Jordan Taylor

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