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buzzed, B&W
So I just finished watching Van Sant's Elephant. My brother mentioned that he thought it wasn't very good, mainly because it lacks ambiguity. I'm not really sure what he meant by this? Maybe he thought the characters were flat? Personally, I liked that they were flat - the whole film feels like an extended vignette, meant to show just one aspect in detail. In this case it's an American high school. He follows a few characters around, but not truly exploring them, just a day-in-the-life type deal. And you see that high school, on an average day, really is just going through the motions.

The part that didn't really work for me was the school itself. I'm sure there are buildings that are that big, and that nice, with open campuses and things, but it didn't feel like a high school to me. The kids never seem to be in class, and the building feels vacuous - they show empty classrooms, and when kids are in the hallways, the halls are near empty. It feels more like a community college or something with the amount of space and freedom (the students never seem to be in class) they have. The science classroom is a bit too staged as well, with students asking questions that aren't realistic while they were discussing electron orbitals and energy levels (let's ignore the fact that the chalkboard notes were showing a vast array of concepts that wouldn't have been necessary for what appears to be an introductory lecture.)

There's a part of me that wonders why Van Sant focuses on the students so much, showing almost no adults. I can recall a principal, a science teacher, a drunken father, and a leader of an Alliance meeting. All the other adults are faceless, and even the majority of the above mentioned are nameless.

Anyway, I liked the movie. It doesn't pretend to have answers about school shootings. It just shows a possible event.

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I didn't like the lack of ambiguity of why the kids did the shooting. There were so many things to blame it on (video games, watching nazi videos, being gay (?), etc). Too many "easy" things to blame the shootings on thus not realistic.

So I took the opposite view . . . that all the things he showed were possibilities but they weren't the reason. I think the art and the piano playing provided a nice contrast as well, showing that the guys weren't one dimensional, that the standard media excuses for school violence weren't the only thing going on in their lives. (I do wonder if there has been a school shooting where violent video games weren't something the shooter enjoyed . . . )

As for the shower scene, I did think it was unrealistic . . . My impression was that he was showing a last rite of sort, where the guys really hadn't had a kiss before, so were just seeing what it was like . . . but who knows . . . it'd be easy to interpret it as latent homosexuality as well . . .

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