Elephant (2003): 3/5
It’s been almost 7 months since Korean student Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting spree killing more than a dozen people during the infamous Virginia Tech massacre. The V-Tech massacre definitely comes to mind while watching Gus Van Sant’s Elephant for highly obvious reasons. Elephant is a sort of ‘day-in-the-life-of’ film, where we follow events that happen throughout a normal day in high school. It’s a movie filled with long, LONG tracking shots made to stress that we, the audience are merely voyeurs of such people and events.
Ho hum ho hum we watch the students go by their everyday routines, such as attending org meetings, doing library duty, teens indulging in bullemia during lunch break, but wait what’s this! The film suddenly focuses on two young men, angsty students perhaps, and we soon learn of their plans of pulling a Battle Royale/Seung-Hui Cho inside the school. At first, Elephant comes off a bit all too random (i.e., the prolonged dark room scene near the beginning and a whole lot more) but the camera work plus the non-chronological editing technique thread it all together to come up with this highly disturbing and haunting yet simple drama.