Experiment 626 (which may, or may not be Stitch's real name) is an event embarked upon by the I'm With Geek Film Team. Film knowledge was unearthed, truths were found and a DVD exchange took place. These are the true life stories from that experiment...
To Robbie from William
After looking at Robbie's list, it occurred to me he has a liking for upbeat films. Therefore, upon Robbie, I bestow Gus Van Sant's heartbreaking social commentary, exploring the darker side of humanity; Elephant.
The shockingly brutal film follows the victims of the Columbine disaster, where students from Columbine high school were shot dead by fellow classmates, in the hours leading up to their deaths. Van Sant's work is awkward and disturbing, as you find yourself constantly on edge at the elephant in the room. It will certainly star with you for a long time after viewing.
Well, it did one of those things.
Elephant is the second part of Gus Van Sant’s “Death” trilogy, and is based in part on the 1999 Columbine high school massacre. The film follows several different students throughout the school and we see their normal, everyday lives. Except for Alex and Eric, who have been bullied for far too long, and have decided to take revenge on their school mates.
It’s really not an understatement to say “nothing happens”. Because, to be quite honest, for the first hour, nothing happens. We just follow people walk through corridors and talk about stuff, whilst Mr. Van Sant tries to impress us all by using as many continuous shots as he can possibly fit into a film. So for the first hour, nothing happens.....And then everything fucking happens. Whilst the lack of activity for the first hour certainly puts viewers in a certain state of mind which will be destroyed very soon, leaving them shocked and uneasy. It slows the film down a lot, making it feel very long despite only being an hour and twenty minutes long. True, a film that takes a long time to go anywhere is a lot better than a film that takes a long time to go absolutely nowhere, however even when we get to these big scenes, it still doesn’t feel worth it.
The beginning of Elephant is extremely vacuous and these scenes don’t exactly make up for it. That’s not to say they’re not done well, but it doesn’t make a big difference. Another issue is that this film feels far too repetitive. With the use of the same camera angles and quiet discussion for every character, it feels like watching the same scene over and over again. Maybe that’s the intention, but for me at least it grew boring. Finally, the film’s ending is quite open for debate. Well, I say ending. It didn’t end. It just stopped. A bit like No Country for Old Men. Sometimes endings like these are quite well enjoyed by viewers but I myself like a resolution. In this film, it doesn’t really have any kind of effect. In fact, despite my claims it feels too long, it probably would’ve benefitted from being a bit longer. Don’t get me wrong, the last shot of this film is quite unsettling, but it still doesn’t feel complete (Which again, may be the intention).
Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out as I was hoping. Admittedly, it does get scary. Especially watching the shooters plan their massacre, which is hugely uncomfortable and eye opening too, as we sort of assume that these people who do it in real life are just mad and run into a school with a gun. But no, they carefully plan it out, it’s fascinating to watch, even if unsettling. Will said this will stay with me for a while.....Honestly, I’ll probably forget it soon enough. It appears there won’t be a lasting effect, which is a shame. But perhaps that’s my fault. It’s like how everyone tells you how scary a film is, and that’s all you expect, you’re waiting to be terrified and then you watch it and it doesn’t effect you. Maybe I expected this too much. Either way, Elephant is a slow but unsettling film that suffers from pacing issues and lack of events but (possibly) carries an amazing metaphor.