Elephant – Earnest
I normally write reviews on this site based on what I like and I normally don’t like including any types of politics, social commentary, or the such in my reviews (it’s just not my style to push that type of agenda down anyone’s throat). I also realize that this review might be about four weeks overdue, but you know what they say (really, you should know the old saying).
Since the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO back in 1999, gun control, along with media and parental responsibility, has always been a hot topic issue, yet little, to nothing, has been done. I’m in no way against taking away people’s guns, or telling the media how to cover sensational stories, or even how parents should take care of their kids. Maybe one day I’ll look at it from a different perspective once I’m a parent or, heaven forbid, a victim of a similar tragedy, but in the meantime I will continue to watch violent movies and play violent video games, but I refuse to watch shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”or “Jerseylious”that is just cruel and unusual.
It wasn’t until July 20th 2012 that all the talk started again about gun control and media responsibilty with the Aurora, CO tragedy during the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” where 12 people were killed and numerous others were wounded. Yes, between Columbine and Aurora there have been other mass shootings (Red Lake, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood) but to open fire in a crowded theater during a movie that many peoplpe might have been waiting their whole lives to see, it’s really hard to comprehend what would drive someone to such an insidious act. What really went on in his mind before, during, and especially after, all the bullets had been fired, and lives destroyed? What drives us to our actions? What shapes us into the people we become? How can be avoid these tragedies in the future? While it might not answer all the questions we have, Gus van Sant’s “Elephant“allows us a glimpse into the anatomy of a crime and what we might be missing when it comes to the modern teenager.
Yes, many of you might be saying “Elephant, what a boring piece of crap!” or “Jesus, that movie had nothing to say about anything, it was just a bunch of kids walking around a school.” Yes, I will admit there was a lot of walking, a lot of tracking shots, a lot of high school kids being high school kids, well, that is the point! If you know anything about “Elephant”you know what happens at some point during the movie, there is a school shooting, reminiscent of the Columbine High shooting. But its the lead up to the eventual shooting that makes this film all the more complex.
Van Sant does a great job of turning the mundane into something captivating, and there is always a payoff after each vignette involving the student(s), and the earnest way of dealing with the mundane fills you with dread if you know what is eventually going to happen to the students, and the school. While the film does focus on the shooters, and details their motivations and frustrations, what you see with the non-shooters is almost as horrifying. From homophobia, bulimia, apathetic teachers, and drunk parents, these are all the “elephants” in the room that no one wants to talk about and could be contributions to student behavior, but apathy breeds apathy until tragedy occurs.
“Elephant,” while not the most interesting character study, gives an earnest portrayal of teens in a post-9/11, post Columbine environment, and the scary part is that much hasn’t changed.