Elephant (2003)

DailyView: Day 264, Movie 369

Here is one that was a tough watch.

Elephant was written and directed by Gus Van Sant. It tells the story of a group of kids at the fictional high school of Watt High School in the days before and up to a school shooting.

Based tentatively on the 1999 events at Columbine, Elephant followed several students, played by mostly unknown and non-professional actors, reliving several scenes from differing POVs. Much of the beginning of the film was slow and focused in on the characters, their typical lives of high school students. The over-the-top nature of some high school movies were kept at a minimum and set up the eventual slaughter carefully. If you did not know that this movie had the events in the third act, you might be wondering what movie you were watching.

Although I had not ever seen this movie and I was not aware of what the topic was, I had first heard about this on the Top 10 Show and, I think it was Matt Knost, who said that it was a good movie but it was one where he didn’t feel the need to revisit it because of the topic. I do not remember him mentioning the school shooting aspect, but that did put me on guard for this and, as a teacher myself, the signs were there if you knew what to be watching for. I assumed that this would wind up to be a school shooting film and when I saw the one shooter looking online at a gun website, I knew I was right.

There was controversy surrounding this movie a few years later as the shooters behind the 2005 assault on Red Lake supposedly had seen the film and was inspired by the third act. How accurate that is may be up for question, but it brought some controversy to Elephant.

It is difficult to classify this because the topic is one so close to home as a teacher, but still something that is important to see. The production of the film was well done and the actors did a great job, especially for the lack of experienced actors that were involved. It is definitely a rough watch, but I think it is a valuable experience.

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