Saturday, February 5, 2011


In Elephant, a Gus Van Sant movie inspired by the recent Columbine school shooting, the violence is drained of all energy and purpose. Avoiding the usual techniques of filming violent scenes like quick cuts and close-ups, we follow the events of the school shooting using long tracking shots and very few cuts. There is no music, no use of slow-motion, nor is there that much blood seen on screen (the death of one student at 3:05 shows an extremely unrealistic lack of blood). Even the acting is deliberately muted, and some might say bad (the reactions of the actors at 6:00 and 11:43 look amateurish and hokey). An athletically built Afrian-American student is shown confidently walking the halls as the shootings take place, and we automatically assume that he is going to do something about it. But instead, we watch him quickly be shot and killed by one of the killers. The violence is quick and happens with no apparent purpose. The ending of this scene on Youtube is also in fact the ending of the movie, with the killer mulling over who to kill first between a man and his girlfriend. With the movie ending on this note, we as the audience are told nothing about what to think about the events taking place and simply shows us what happened.

Gus Van Sant offers no easy solutions to why the Columbine shootings took place. While there are a few scenes that might show the director attempting to explain them, like one where the killers are shown playing a violent video game or one where they are shown watching Nazi propaganda on TV, these are extremely brief and it is delusional to think that any of these scenes offers any kind of real explanation to the killer's motives. In an interview with Gus Van Sant, he explains what inspired him to make the film and why he chose to film it the way he did.

"I guess because of the intensity of the event. It's too big to maybe just stamp it, like "Alienation", "Guns", "Bullets". It's too amorphous. We wanted our film to work around that and have ideas floating around and have the viewers involved in that as opposed to just telling the viewers what to think." (

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