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2004 Mini Reviews

Elephant (2003)

Elephant
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Starring Alex Frost, Eric Deulen, Elias McConnell
Running Time: 84 minutes

Before you read much further, please know that there will be minor spoilers in this review. I wouldn’t worry too much. The subject matter of the film is quite obvious if you've seen the trailer, or heard much about the film otherwise. I don't expect you to be too surprised by anything I say in my review.

The only word I can think of to describe Van Sant's perspective of the Columbine massacre is stunning. Nobody moved during the credits during my screening. Everyone sat silenty, awestruck, staring at the credits at the end of the movie. I have never seen a film this intense, this relentless, this honest, and I have never seen an entire audience so still after the movie had ended.

Elephant plops us down into a different world, a familiar world. Most of it we’ve lived before. Van Sant shows us this world from an outsider’s perspective. There are some great, long tracking shots, as the camera follows the characters, without intrusion, as they go about their typical high school lives

The greatest strength of Elephant is that it doesn't try to make excuses, give reasons, or place blame for the actions that take place. There is no lecture regarding the evil influences on children today, or about the accessibility and ease to obtain weapons. There is no commentary, and some might argue that it has no point, but it really doesn’t need one. Everyone knows how they feel about tragedy and Van Sant recognizes that it is not his role to tell us how we should react.

The film doesn't have a long running time, which can be a fault with some films, but not here. Anything more would have been excessive, and it stops at exactly the perfect time.

Score: 9/10


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