Analog Thoughts on a Digital Age

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Movie Review "Elephant" (2003)

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I was watching National Geographic last monday and saw a documentary about Elephant Rage. This mysterious behavior among adult elephants was a mystery to scientists until recently. The have found that most of the elephants who run amok in circuses or zoos are either orphans or otherwise used to be juveniles with not much parental guidance. Triggered by a traumatic experience (the death of a parent in the hands of poachers perhaps) this behavior results in many deaths in the cities and even among other wild animals in the jungle. It is further stated that this behavior is, really, no different from the human mental disorder called Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

The Gus Van Sant movie Elephant is a unique look at the ordinary lives of ordinary teenagers in a public high school in a typical suburban community. Van Sant has previously gotten critics acclaim for his works and Finding Forrester and the lackluster Psycho remake. I have always been a fan of Van Sant's work and have noticed that he has a very keen interest on alienated youth as a subject matter for his films (such as My Own Private Idaho and To Die For). This year, he made a film called Last Days, which is loosely based on the last few days of grunge hero Kurt Cobain.

Elephant is a loose adaptation (with very realistic detail) of the events that led to the Columbine High School massacre which happened in a small town in Colorado where two dissafected young men walked in to school one day bearing firearms and different kinds of gear and mowed the student population with high powered firearms bought off the interenet and local stores. The event is considered a national tragedy in the States and is a sore subject in the topic of guns and society. A very detailed description of the events that transpired can be found in Michael Moore's second film Bowling For Columbine, predecessor to Farenheit 9/11, but let's go back to Elephant.

I'll have a happymeal

The story revolves around a few students around the campus in what seems to be an ordinary day in high school. John (John McFarland) has is late for class because he has to take care of his drunk father and have him picked up by his older brother. Eli (Eli McConnell), is taking pictures of people around campus for his portfolio. Nathan has to pick up his girlfriend, Acadia joins in on a debate about gays in high school...and so on. This is all to be shattered in warp speed when two of their schoolmates Alex and Eric waltz into the doors of their highschool side entrance, and the rest as they say is history.
The execution of the events that led to the tragedy is impeccably done in the perspective of each focused character. The most memorable and unsettling would be when we are introduced to the character Michelle (Kristen Hicks), an 'unpretty' girl who nobody ever notices.In the movies, we learn to hate the characters who scorn the underdog. We are given a dose of our own judgemental medicine when Van Sant makes us realize that we never noticed her when, in fact she was given almost 20 seconds of screen time in the beginning of the film, and we never notice that she was actually running the background of one of the key scenes.
The movie also shows us how easy it is to have access to guns in America. The boys in the film simply ordered their ammunition off of a website and was delivered to their doorstep like a Thigh-Master. The movie doesn't really focus on the politics and the debate that inevitably ensued afterwards and didn't seek to take sides on the whole gun issue. It is a simple narrative of what MAY have happened through the eyes of the kids who had to go through it.
Elephant won The Palme D'Or in the 2003 Cannes Film Festival and is available in DVD everywhere. Elephant is definitely one of the best films I've seen this year. If I had seen this earlier, it would have been a shoo in for my top ten last year.

Rocketboy's rating ***** (5 out of 5)

3 Comments:

Blogger Radioactive Adobo said...

Indeed, one of the most powerful films ever made, if only to commemorate an event that shocked Americans and the world.

I was so bothered by this film that I never saw it again for a year.

11:19 PM

 
Blogger the rocketboy said...

I was blown away (no pun intended) by this movie and how well it was executed. Whats more disturbing than nthe fat that this actually happened is that the possibility of this happening again is great as well.

9:35 AM

 
Anonymous Watch Movies Online said...

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.

1:16 PM

 

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