Elephant (2003)
May 18, 2015, 1:35 pm
Filed under: film review | Tags: , , , , , ,


Elephant (2003)
Directed by: Gus Van Sant

Part of the criticism and acclaim of Elephant is it’s total lack of any kind of morality. It portrays a neutral view of a horrific event. The film takes a camera and puts you, the viewer, inside of something brutal.

But there is a message in there somewhere, hidden in the labyrinthine high-school corridors. The message is in the total lack of care or presence of any adult figure. They are all vacant. All absent.

In the opening scene, John’s father is drifting drunk. This is the extent of his character. The principal of the school is patronising and unconcerned with reason. He looks down on John and is completely without care for his frustrations.  The parent’s of the two killers are faceless ghosts that float around the screen and then disappear into the ether. Never seen again.

The strange thing about the film though, is how emotionless everyone seems. There is a scene in which three girls are sitting in the lunch hall, eating, conversing. Then they walk together, they talk, and like any other day they enter the bathroom together to force up their lunch. It seems ordinary. Where a character does display emotion, John retreats to an empty classroom to shed a tear. His friend asks “Did something bad happen?” and he responds “I don’t know.” There is a scene in amongst the chaos of the end where a fearless student (Benny) seems completely unconcerned by what is happening. He drifts through the burning, smoking hallways in a long continuous take. He helps a girl escape and for a moment we almost have a heroic figure. He finds himself sneaking up behind one of the shooters. Yet as quick as this brief glimpse of hope appeared, the shooter turns around and plugs a bullet right into him.

The film’s end is equal in how abrupt it is. A mere snapshot of an event. A portrait of these character’s life and frustrations. It ends with no conclusion or resolution. That is your responsibility as the viewer to come to.