I don’t trust those people at Cannes, not one little bit.
How did this get the Palme d’Or? I can understand the Best Director award – the direction of the film was masterful, with the kids in concentric circles of activity around the high school. But the top award of the whole festival? How did the audience and judges keep from falling asleep? I have a suspicion that the film was given the top award as a penance for NOT giving the award to Bowling for Columbine the year before.
On the surface, Elephant is a dramatization of the Columbine massacre…but let’s not kid ourselves – there have been enough school shootings in the last decade for this movie to be seen from a less specific perspective. In any case, in most aspects, the film is totally non-judgmental of the victims, the survivors and even the killers themselves. The controversy surrounding the release of Elephant honestly surprises me, now having seen it. It has to be one of the most emotionless, viewpointless films I have ever seen.
I do like Van Sant’s decision to avoid popular music in the film – but it was likely not his choice. What group would knowingly allow their music to be attached to a school shooting?
There were parts of the film that worked…but the parts that didn’t work overshadowed them. Why did Van Sant make the killers get all gay in the shower? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being gay – but depicting a couple of psychopaths as getting their gay on right before they murder a bunch of people isn’t very socially responsible. And why didn’t the bulimic cheerleaders die? Oh wait, this is Gus Van Sant’s fantasy, not mine. Also, the final scene ruined the whole movie for me. What high school has a meat locker, replete with hanging sides of beef?
The title of the film might refer to the phrase “elephant in the living room,” meaning a problem too big to deal with in any of the traditional ways. Someone should let Mr. Van Sant know that making a boring film about school violence may win awards, but does little towards a solution to that violence.