I was faced with a choice, at a difficult age. Would I write a book, or should I take to the stage

Sunday, June 6


And so here begins a new irregular segment in which we bend to the persistent braying of a viewer, to turn our attention to a particular matter. So, just for you Kirsten of Melbourne, Fop has (another) look at Elephant (our number one film of 2004, to be exact).

This is a film about a high school shooting. Jolly it's not, but it IS a haunting and engrossing account of a single, terrible day. What you don't get here is a lot of / any explanation for the events that took place. That would be a different film altogether. Most likely a far more didactic one that Disney would probably have bankrolled.
What you do get, though, is a lot of tracking shots with disarming, ambient sound as we follow the pretty cast round the school before the shootings. We hear bits of their banal conversations. Their blithe lack of awareness of what is about to occur is in part what gives this film its strength. (Also significant in this respect is the fact that most of them have never acted before.) The audience has to sit, and wait for the inevitable, which only we (and the killers) know about - we're the only ones who can see the "Elephant" in the school. (IS that right?)
We also get a look the lives of Alex and Eric, the killers, before everything goes down. This gives no clear reason for what they are about to do, at all. (They do get in the shower together and kiss, at one point, if that's any good for you.) But perhaps this is one of the film's objectives - how can you expect to understand in 80 minutes exactly why something like this would occur?
Elephant seems to have come in for a bit of stick from self-important reviwer types since its release, and we feel this to be most unjustified. Gus Van Sant was not trying to spoonfeed his viewers an explanatory thesis about why something like this would occur. We can draw certain conclusions, if we like, from what we see of a single day in the lives of all these people. But this film should be treated as documentation of what went on a particular day, rather than something rigorously explanatory about the events of that day. Van Sant finds the realism of this story, without pointing any particular fingers, and manages to make something quite unexpected and memorable.

And there you have it.

It's really far more taxing writing about film than pop or Big Brother. Still, we will continue to keep to our multi-jurisdictional brief, where possible.

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