Sunday, 25 June 2017

Elephant (2003) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written June 25th, 2017*

"Most importantly, have fun, man"

Gas Van Sant isn't a director I'm massively familiar with, I've known the name for a long time, but I was surprised to find out the only film I've seen of his is Good Will Hunting and now Elephant.

School shootings are a touchy subject, one that has rarely made it into film or TV for obvious reasons. Elephant could have potentially been a highly glorified and explotive piece of violent cinema, or even worse, a heavy-handed anti-gun film. The result was neither of these. The end result is something much more fascinating and unsettling.

We follow the lives of a multiple group of students. Some lonely, others popular, then some just normal. A lot of the script is improvised, making everyone feel real and natural. There's not really a lot to these characters, as we only see one morning of their lives, but that's not the point. It's like an on-the-fly documentary, like a first hand account of what happens. There's no cinematic feel to any of this, nothing unrealistic or over the top, it's just how it was. The use of several long and unbroken takes really helped add to the realistic feeling.


There are obvious influences from the Columbine School Massacre. The shooters are clearly designed to look like them, their plan was very similar and there are small moments added to the film from first hand accounts of the massacre. I believe this was originally meant to be a film about the Columbine massacre too, but ended up its own thing. I do hope that some day we get a film about the Columbine Massacre and maybe we one day get to see the infamous 'Basement Tapes', but for now, Elephant is our definitive school shooting film.

The only thing that kinda bugged me about Elephant was it's ending. It's left ambigious and open-ended (Like the shooters motivations), but despite the unsettling and tense build-up to the disturbing and gruesome event, I was left pretty cold by the ending, it left me wanting more. I'm sure there's a lot to the ending that needs to be looked up, but for now, it just left me a little frustrated.

8/10 Dans

Elephant is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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