Response To Gus Van Sant's Movie Elephant

My response to Gus Van Sant's Elephant with close reference to post-screening discussion in mind is elaborated in the following essay presented below.

I believe in our contemporary society the duration and length of cuts and camera angles of any medium has become so fast paced that we need a movie like Gus Van Sant's Elephant to remind us of the beauty and elegance of languid and mundane filmmaking. Films of today have become so structured and predictable that we need a jolt to this structuralized pattern of filmmaking which this movie delivers through its ability to foster inquiry in the audience's mind without making the 'question' so obvious.

My response to the movie in the first ten minutes was the thought that I'm watching an experimental art film regarding a regular day in the life of a few high school kids. Initially, the indie teen romantic drama theme felt was very prominent which can be based on the few archetypes we are introduced which are showcased in such films such as the creative teen archetype (Elias) with his photography, attractive and popular guy archetype (Nathan) with his popularity with girls and athletic inclination, introverted teen archetype (Michelle) etc. As time progressed I realised this is not 'Film' with a conventional arch or even a protagonist with the intention to entertain rather something more. What transformed the film for me was when at twenty-fore minutes and forty-two seconds the films reveal the two boys and their brief warning to John McFarland took me back because in that moment I realised what the film was about. The nineteen ninety-nine Columbine High School killings were something I had studied and had prior knowledge but I had no idea that this film was based or even connected to it. From that moment onwards I was entranced for the entire remaining duration of the film as there is nothing more attractive to my attention than impending danger.

A few seconds after this revelation I realised why the titles name is elephant as it refers to the metaphorical idiom of apparent problem or danger that no one desires to address. Everyone would have or should have had some knowledge that something was severely not right with those two kids. That someone should have spoken or done something prior to the incident that caused them to become that way and do the things they did. After the credits finished rolling my response to the very common question which is asked after not only this but any great tragedy that takes place, that of “how or why such a tragedy can be allowed to happen' is that there was always the “elephant in the room' yet the choice to remain silent on the issue is the only response anyone gave.

The film after analysing and understanding it. I have realised that it has a lot of subtexts involved in it such as suppression of homosexuality, bullying, violent video games, absentee parenting, gun laws, etc As well as symbolism such as the clouds, the Hitler documentary, the video game gun comparison shot etc. This for me made the movie an immersing experience which drew me into there world.

The film ends with a dark and sinister final few minutes of the film which are some of the most memorial moments of the film with me wanting more even after knowing the fate of the shooters and the victims. I would like to end by stating that the movie for me personally was not emotional like a drama based film nor it imbibed a sense of fear like any horror films. The film leaves me with a sense of numbness and dazed after watching it. Any film with the intent to make you feel a certain emotion even after the film ends is a film I feel can be classified as a brilliant film and this film certainly does so.

31 October 2020
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