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Elephant (2003)

Elephant (2003)

Elias McConnellAlex FrostEric DeulenJohn Robinson
Gus Van Sant


Elephant (2003) is a English,German movie. Gus Van Sant has directed this movie. Elias McConnell,Alex Frost,Eric Deulen,John Robinson are the starring of this movie. It was released in 2003. Elephant (2003) is considered one of the best Crime,Drama,Thriller movie in India and around the world.

A day in the lives of a group of average teenage high school students. The film follows every character and shows their daily routines. However two of the students plan to do something that the student body won't forget.

Elephant (2003) Reviews

  • A film that will haunt you


    'Elephant' is Gus Van Sant's brilliant and mind-blowing distillation of teenage alienation and angst. Set on one of those sterile suburban high school campuses, the film recounts a typical day in the life of a school - typical that is until it ends in a Columbine-type massacre. Here is a film in which style does indeed become substance, where the 'meaning' lies in the form and shape of the film itself. Rather than tell us a conventional 'story,' Van Sant has chosen to give his film the look and feel of a pseudo-documentary, merely recording the events and conversations that occur that day, a day we are led to believe is not unlike every other at that school. Van Sant's prying camera eye turns us into voyeurs, as we observe the cliquishness, petty humiliations, and sheer overwhelming banality that have defined high school life for so many of us. Van Sant uses space brilliantly. Despite the fact that this is undoubtedly a school with a large student population, the characters on whom he focuses seem always to be somehow isolated from almost everyone else around them. None of the characters we see really seem to have any connection with one another, and even when they do, it tends to be of only the most superficial kind. They are like people stranded on their own individual islands, enduring their suffering alone and in silence. Van Sant sets the tone with his tracking shots of characters strolling down seemingly endless corridors heading to nowhere in particular, making little or no human contact as they go. The camera, throughout the film, seems to have a mind of its own, often avoiding what seems to be a major plot point and, instead, zeroing in on something that seems to have little or no real importance. Then through the process of editing, he weaves nothing less than a tapestry of alienation. By concentrating so intently on the seemingly irrelevant minutia of daily life, Van Sant brings to the film a sense of documentary immediacy most fiction films lack. We are made privy to bits and pieces of conversation only to have the talk dribble off as we or the characters turn the corner and move on to the next group of people. It is the deadening 'sameness,' the insignificance of so much of what we see and hear that makes this such a sad and haunting experience. One thing Van Sant refuses to do is try to 'explain' why the killers act as they do. He's smart enough to know that there is no single explanation for such behavior, that it arises from a variety of sources and that it is primarily the product of a general feeling of alienation in modern society. We see one of the murderers suffering humiliation at the hands of two schoolmates, the second killer playing a violent video game and perusing a gun magazine, but these, in and of themselves, cannot be the sole explanations. At best they are symptoms of a much deeper societal sickness, one that Van Sant can only hint at but never fully grasp - for who among us can claim to truly understand it? What 'Elephant' does is to make us focus on and actually see this spirit-crushing ennui which permeates our culture and which defines life for so many of our youngsters. The director has drawn fine work from his cast of talented unknowns. Their every word, their every gesture rings believable and true. He has also employed Beethoven's 'Fur Elise' to serve as a haunting refrain throughout the film, capturing the poignancy of a world in which beauty, spontaneity and joy seem to have been removed. There are some who will find 'Elephant' to be slow-moving, empty, arty and pretentious. For them there are plenty of mindlessly upbeat depictions of high school life to watch. But for those who can appreciate a film artist working at the peak of his form, 'Elephant' is a mesmerizing, vision-altering experience that pushes the boundaries of the medium and takes us to a place, emotionally, that we haven't ever been before.

  • Brilliant and deeply affecting


    On April 20, 1999, two boys wearing trench coats carried a daunting arsenal of weapons harnessed with military web gear into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and systematically gunned down thirteen students. Gruesome though it was, the incident was just one of eight fatal high school shootings between 1997 and 1999. These traumatizing events began a debate about what was wrong with the nation's youth, an issue that is the subject of Gus Van Sant's Elephant. Winner of the Golden Palm at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, Elephant is a brilliant and deeply affecting film that makes a courageous attempt to grasp the malaise of today's youth culture. Van Sant does not attempt to explain Columbine or uncover its underlying causes, and there is no revealing epiphany. His film is a highly stylized, dreamlike tone poem that defies linear conventions and is almost surreal in its approach. Using flashbacks and recurring images from different points of view, the film captures the mood and tone of its adolescent world: its perceptions, its self-absorption, and ultimately its darkest instincts. The camera is a detached observer, and the strength of the film lies in its acute power of observation and detail. Van Sant shows us all the surface rituals: the girl cheerleaders, the boys playing football, the locker-lined hallways, the academic discussions, yet an ineffable feeling of loneliness pervades. The picture features impeccable acting by a group of non-professionals from the Portland, Oregon area. Each character is introduced separately and we see them going about their business on a seemingly ordinary school day. The steadicam-tracking camera follows them as they walk through the sterile halls that seem endless. The school appears without life -- a place where one feels a desperate sense of loss. We see John (John Robinson), a blonde-haired surfer type, take over the driving from his father who has had too much to drink, then get called to task by an administrator for being late for school. Eli (Elias McConnell) is a photographer who asks classmates, including John, to pose for pictures. Football player Jordan (Jordan Taylor) meets his girlfriend Carrie (Carrie Finklea) for lunch. Three friends Nicole (Nicole George), Brittany (Brittany Mountain), and Acadia (Alicia Miles) gossip and argue about who is whose best friend. Michelle (Kristen Hicks) refuses to wear shorts, is admonished by her teacher, and then goes to work in the library. The paths of these students crisscross throughout the film and each has their own destiny to fulfill when the violence erupts. The main protagonists, Alex (Alex Frost) and Eric (Eric Deulen) are modeled after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine. When we first meet Alex, he is being shunned by his fellow students, called names and pelted with spitballs in science class. Alex is more outgoing and creative, Eric more passive, but their personalities complement each other. Alex and Eric wait at home until a strange package arrives in the mail while Alex plays Beethoven's "Fur Elise" on the piano. When they return to school, they are dressed in combat gear and ready to kill. Rather than giving us pat answers, Van Sant bases his approach on the elusiveness of truth, and our insatiable desire to know more. The imagery and camerawork are almost painfully beautiful, while the disconnected narrative deliberately withholds closure. On top of all this, the pacing is superb, slowly building up the almost unbearable tension. When it is finally released, the explosion hits you with a frightening energy that is as unforgettable as it is chilling.

  • Throughout this Cannes-winning, almost docudrama, Van Sant turns our expectations upside down.


    What's in the name of a place? Tombstone, Columbine? The former conjures up thoughts of heroic justice, the latter mass murder. Understanding the motives of Wyatt Earp or Dillon Klebold is not as easy as the place names; interpreting a film about either event as antiviolence is not easy either. So director Gus Van Sant (`My Private Idaho,' `Good Will Hunting,' `Gerry') fictionalizes an average high school at which a Columbine-like massacre takes place. Interestingly, he makes no attempt to relay the underlying causes for the young men's decision to slaughter; in fact, he seems to try hard not to supply any reasons except for a brief segment with a boy watching a show on Nazis and a faceless mother serving pancakes. Even the lad whose father is an alcoholic is not one of the murderers. As my radio co-host, Clay Lowe, reminds me from our conversation with the director, in Van Sant's Zen Buddhist way, he seems to be saying the reasons for the crime are unknowable like human existence itself. For those critics who fault Van Sant for not committing himself to a thesis, the unknowable should have sufficed. That is not to say the director's slow pace, long takes, and interminable tracking shots aren't boring; it's just that the viewer must give in to the director's vision of teenage life as essentially devoid of humor, excitement, and rationale. For us Western rational types, this mirthless world may serve as a possible cause for the slaughter. As one of the murderers tells the other at the beginning of the rampage, `Have fun.' Throughout this Cannes-winning, almost docudrama, Van Sant turns our expectations upside down: The misfit girl is not saved just because she is like the assassins; the muscular, seemingly impervious African-American student, tracked like a savior through the halls, is not a hero at all, but another disengaged high-schooler not reading the signals. The aphorism about the ignored elephant in the living room, where it no longer can be seen because it's been there too long, or the one about the blind men who, each with a part of the elephant, can't describe the whole, can be the appropriate theme of this cinema-verite dissection of the senselessness of evil. As Joseph Conrad said about the violation of the jungle, `It was reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage; there was not an atom of foresight or of serious intention in the whole bunch of them.' In other words, crime and it criminals are inscrutable.

  • From the guy who brought you a scene-by-scene remake of Psycho...


    High school, kids having a normal day, two other kids shoot up the place, the end. There's the plot - glad we got that out of the way ... Elephant is a perfect example of how an utterly worthless film can hide behind an important message and get praised for doing so. How is it possible that this film has won so many awards? There's absolutely nothing in here to warrant it. Most of the film consists of steadicam shots of students walking through corridors - long endless corridors. Occasionally they stop and say something trivial to some other student. Oh, and since this is an "art film" the chronology is out of order and we get to see the same pointless events from different angles. Why? Because that's what makes the film seem like something else than a countdown to a bunch of executions. If you didn't know that this film was about school shootings, would you still be watching it after the first 30 minutes? Are the lives of John, Elias, Nathan, and everyone else really that interesting? Or are you just waiting for the guns to start blazing. There are no answers in this film (to be fair, there are no real questions raised either). Does Elephant bring anything new to the discussion regarding school shootings? No. I guess the (sort of) improvised acting and long takes are supposed to add an element of realism to the film. But it just feels fake and forced. Not for a second do I "believe" in any of these kids. They're just as stereotyped as always before. I don't believe that Van Sant is interested in giving a real depiction of this kind of shootings. Just look at the actual shooters: bullied, slightly less good looking than everybody else, Nazis, gay, gun freaks, playing video games... Talk about taking the easy way out with those characters. Elephant is the worst kind of pretentious film there is. It knows it's got nothing to say, so it discovers itself as art - that way people can look at it and say: "Oh it's so beautiful and poetic. And such an important message." The only thing Elephant managed to do, was to earn a tied top spot (together with Eyes Wide Shut) on my list of the most boring films ever made. [0/10]

  • Beautiful, sensitive and chilling


    There are very few films which manage to keep the entire audience seated through the credits, but this is one of those few, at least at the screening I attended. Ok, so the abrupt nature of the ending may also have had something to do with that, but I felt that rare feeling of total dislocation and nausea once the film was over, so realistic and horrific was the violence. This disjointed examination of the causes of a Columbine style shooting works so much better, I think, than a 'straight' drama would have done. In destroying our expectations of a traditional narrative and avoiding what could have easily become cliched characterization, Gus Van Sant also demonstrates what the probable reality of a situation like this would have been, which is senseless, anti-heroic and totally random. A lesser version of this story would have had Michelle, the geeky outcast, or Benny, the brave and silent student who helps a distressed student out of a window become heroes. Their inherent goodness or strength would have them saved. Here, they are simply snatched away from us without glory, fanfare or mourning. Van Sant's method of using long shots without dialogue or cuts works brilliantly, not only lending the film a doomy atmosphere, but also a highly lyrical quality that captures perfectly the isolation and loneliness of these characters, so often unable to communicate. These kids talk about nothing, and everything, their brief, clipped conversations pregnant with subtext. It is as close as a fictional film has come to creating truly believable, real people in recent memory (Harmony Korine 'Kids' also comes to mind). Being less than two years out of school, one of the elements I appreciated most was the way in which the film captured the social structures of school, and that all enveloping feeling that everything is so important. After all this delicate build up, the shooting feels like a truly cataclysmic, apocalyptic event. That Van Sant shoots one seemingly unimportant scene from three points of view further enhances the sense of the randomness, and at the same time the inevitability of this event. The violence itself is extremely well handled, never glorifying or even being too explicit, and is yet completely devastating. The only area of the film that I felt was unconvincing was the build up that we saw from the killers point of view. Having them watch a documentary about Hitler seems too heavy handed, and the nature of the relationship between the two is far too undersketched, and unnecessarily complicated by having then kiss in the shower. Ultimately however, this is a powerful film, beautifully and sensitively made. It is one of those films, alongside Schindler's List that should be compulsory viewing for school children. It's shocking nature would be best utilized for people of this age, as I feel it would no doubt help kids to think more carefully about their actions to others.


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