Elephant ~ (USA, 2003) ~ Netflix Streaming

It turns out I’d seen this film before – I knew immediately when I started watching it, but it’s’ not a long film and it mesmerizes the viewer with its pacing, its dreamlike, meandering quality, and a story that has a known ending. It’s a film that explores the random acts of violence that we are liable to encounter any day. While we go about our routines – face it, daily life for those who have to work fora a living can be spectacularly boring. And high school can be that way as well.

The film has a storytelling style that moves in and out, circles around, reorients and filters back in again. The camera is right in sync with this technique. It all males for a disorienting experience. There are two scenes in particular that illustrate this. One has two friends meeting in the hall and, as these things goes go, they each ask what the other is up to. “Are you going to the dance tonight?”. This same scene is repeated a few more times, once from the opposite angle, and then from the perspective of a classmate running down the hall. The second scene has the two eventual killers in the bedroom of one of them. Alex (Alex Frost) is playing the piano and his friend Eric (Eric Duelen) is staring at a computer screen. The camera circles around the room three times before pulling back from the pair. It’s all very effective as a way to let the inevitable play itself out at its own pace.

The film, of course, mirrors the Columbine shootings – this is not a spoiler. Everyone knows this. But the ending stops just short of a final killing and the capture of anyone. In fact, there is a marked absence of any law enforcement on the scene. I’m not sure what Van Sant was after there, but its another way to isolate the horrible acts themselves. Gus Van Sant is never predictable – even when we know the story.


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