, the elegant and unsettling movie from Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho
, Good Will Hunting
), depicts students at a high school before and during a harrowing, Columbine-style shooting. The movie follows one young boy who takes over the wheel from his drunken dad while returning from lunch, then loops back in time and follows another student who crosses paths with the first, then loops back and follows another--all captured in long, unedited tracking shots that are serene and unhurried, even when two boys in camouflage gear, carrying heavy bags, arrive at the school and begin shooting. Elephant
doesn't attempt to explain their behaviour; it simply places the audience back in the brief yet interminable window of adolescence, when life is trivial and painfully important at the same time. Your reaction to Elephant
will depend as much on your life experiences as anything in the movie itself. --Bret Fetzer
Winner of the Palme D'Or Award at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, this controversial film by Gus van Sant portrays two days in the life of a suburban American high school that is set to become the scene of a Columbine-style massacre. Semi-improvised, using unknown teenagers rather than professional actors, the film adopts a fly-on-the-wall approach that surveys the various cliques and social strata of the school in a non-judgmental, documentary-like way. Against this background, two misfit friends, Eric (Eric Deulen) and Alex (Alex Frost), who spend their free-time collecting Nazi iconography and playing ultra-violent video games, are coolly planning an armed ambush on the school, drawing working diagrams of the school refectory during study period and buying weapons over the Internet. The film marks a return for Van Sant to the low-key style of his early independent films.