Film Review : Elephant (2003)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 72%

Cannes Film Festival Awards
Palme d’Or
Best Director

Directed By – Gus Van Sant
Starring – Alex Frost, Eric Deulen, John Robinson, and Elias McConnell

Several ordinary high school students go through their daily routine as two others prepare for something more malevolent.

I was in school when Columbine happened. I remember getting nightmares and daydreaming during the day what I would do if such an event occurred. I researched the event non stop in order to be prepared if anything like that happened to me. It got to the point where I knew the names of the victims and where they died. I knew the time table of events. I could probably walk through that high school right now and find my way around. I was that frightened by that event. I became obsessed with my fears. I got a lot of those feelings back when I viewed this film.

As much as I was disturbed to the core by this film, I ended up loving every second of it. I’m not a big Gus Van Sant fan but this is one of those films that transcends the rest of his work. It’s one of the most realistic yet absolutely surrealistic views of high school I have ever seen. Van Sant decides to ditch traditional narrative and story telling and instead decides to following his actors as they go through their every day life in high school. I’m so glad he decided to film this way because it makes the impact of what everybody knows is going to happen even more terrifying. Long takes following students down hallways and into lunchrooms puts the viewer right back into those four years. While the school is ultimately different than my own high school, the feeling and tone of the scenes hit a chord with me. I was a happy neutral in high school. I was friends with the popular kids and friends with the freaks. I’ve seen my share of bullying just as our main shooter Alex endured in the beginning of the film. It’s terrifying to know that not only my school, but any school could have an event like this. It was eye opening.

I loved the long shots. I loved the minimal score that really only included Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, No. 2 Moonlight. It’s really the perfect piece of music to brings the subtle tension leading up to the climax to life. It was like feeding off my fears and is probably one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen. It was damn near perfect. The fact that in won the Palme d’Or at Cannes is evident that this is a highly important film and should be viewed by as many as possible to fully understand these school shootings. I can exhale now.


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