Elephant (2003) (R)

This review contains SPOILERS!
"Elephant" is as good as movies get for a very small reason, it's simplicity. In the last review I blasted "The Best Years of Our Lives" for being too simple, that is, for its plot being too simple...there wasn't enough material for an almost three hour movie. "Elephant" thrives where the other film lacked, this film is drastically shorted, not even a hour and a half and succeeds with its simplicity.
The story "Elephant" tells is not one that many would like to hear, a school shooting. I went into the movie expecting it to be about the Columbine massacre; but at the end of the credits it was written that this movie and its characters in no way represented actual people. This would make sense because I was doubting that truth behind the story.
"Elephant" follows several teens as they make their way through the day that would be the day that burned itself on their minds forever. In the beginning it's just any other day and even as the shootings start to occur, it's not a big deal to them.
What Gus Van Sant effectively does, is create a situation that neither condemns nor glorifies the actions of any of the students.
The movie is almost entirely shot in tracking shots that follow one student here and there and sometimes double back on other students. It makes you feel like there were only twenty or so shots in the entire movie. The way it's done is very attractive to look at but it also makes a bleak picture that sucks you into the world of the highschool.
This movie won three Cannes film festival awards including the Palme d'Or, the grand prize which would mean that it would have to be a great movie...and it is.
I don't what it was about this movie, the way it was shot or the way it was acted or directed, but it really got to me.
The actors deliver their lines and you believe that you are in a highschool because how they do. Each and every one of them is great in their roles. The most interesting to watch was John Robinson who just forces the viewer to glue their eyes on him.
There are such simple shots that have such great depth and immeasurable beauty to them. Shots like an almost fiver minute shot following one boy as he plays football with some friends on a lunch break and then walks back inside and through the corridors while Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on piano is playing in the background. Why would this work? Because you realize that these simple luxuries like walking through a hallway could be taken away from you at any second.
There is one question that still nags me at the back of my mind: what's with the title? Why name a movie that has nothing to do with elephants, "Elephant"? Is it because these types of crimes become the elephant in the room or is it because one of the students might have taken a picture of an elephant? Who knows? Maybe this is what adds to the intrigue of the movie.
I know that I will absolutely be watching this movie again, but not for a while—it takes it out of you.
Can I in good conscience recommend this movie to everybody? No. I will say, however, that "Elephant" deeply moved me...I wasn't expecting it to be this good.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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