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Elephant presents a world where anarchic, violent teenagers are lost and adrift, betrayed by a sterile and indifferent adult world. How far do the methods of the director lead to this reading of the film and how far do you ultimately agree with thi

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"Elephant presents a world where anarchic, violent teenagers are lost and adrift, betrayed by a sterile and indifferent adult world." How far do the methods of the director lead to this reading of the film and how far do you ultimately agree with this analysis? Elephant is a film written and directed by Gus Van Sant. It was inspired by the events of the Columbine High School Massacre, which took place in Littleton, Colorado. The film is a "coolly detached account of random violence in American schools" and tries to answer the questions left following the 1999 shooting which left 12 students and one teacher dead. Filmed in long tracking shots the sequences are often long and the film is of a slow pace. This gives us a deep insight into the daily lives of high school students, all of whom were played by non-professional actors, who were instructed to improvise within the structure Gus Van Sant had wanted. This along with the documentary style filming makes Elephant different to any other teen movies. Typical movies about violent teenagers, such as Kidulthood, are usually fast paced and everything could be seen to be over exaggerated to give it the blockbuster movie look. However Elephant is different from this, instead of creating an epic movie that would keep the audience on the edge of their seat, Gus Van Sant wanted to investigate why the shootings had taken place. The school is sterile with a real sense of ordinariness as the film follows the students very last moments before the shooting takes place. Surprisingly and untypically there is a distinct sense of order, both in the school and the surrounding areas. Usually you would expect to see anarchic teenagers, hear raised voices, continuous swearing and the vandalism of property, however Elephant is really the complete opposite of this and this leads us to wonder why the shooting could have taken place in such an amenable place. ...read more.


He is shown to be an outcast but is very socially aware of his peers. We see him carefully making a plan of the canteen, and this tells us that the shootings were planned out very well. He enters the canteen and looks around, staring into space. Now this echoes Michelle on the playing field but Alex is doing it for much more sinister reasons. In the film it could possibly suggested that Michelle and Alex are very alike and their characters find themselves in very similar situations. However as the film progresses I becomes apparent that they are not as he shoots her first. The killing of Michelle is very shocking to the audience because at first you think that maybe Alex will spare her life because they are both labelled as outcasts however you soon learn that in fact Alex is a lot more sinister. It also indicated that the reason behinds the killings might not be anything to do with bullying, as Gus Van Sant continues his investigation. As Alex continues to write notes and sketches in the canteen we see him being pushed out of the way as the busy canteen begins to fill up with different cliques of teenagers. Alex then sits down; at this point Alex put his hands into his head and the sound increases. This could possibly suggest there was a physiological reason why the shootings happen. As the sound begins to get louder and the people in the background become defocuses, it appears that in his head everything is getting more and more intense. We are then introduced to Alex's house. The Mise En Scene in this sequence is very mundane, the furniture is very 60s, 70s there is a traditional chiming clock and it appears to be spotless. As a character, who goes into his school as kills his peers, Alex is certainly not archaic. ...read more.


Here we are given chance to get into their head and try and figure out what the killers are really thinking, and their reasons behind the shooting. The point of view shot also promotes the idea that the killing was just a game, or the reason behind it was video games. In a typical game you become the character that is playing, and this is shown in Elephant, as the audience for a shot while become Alex and Eric. Throughout there are several long shots where the camera is kept still to capture the entire mise en scene. This can often be frustrating to the audience as they want the camera to show what's happening somewhere else, an example of this happens fairly early on in the film, outside when the jocks are playing football. The camera is placed in the centre but as the game moves on the camera stays still. This can also make the audience feel very detached from the characters. Using a steadicam the film follows each character through their daily school life. The steadicam allows us to follow each character and try to work out where they fit in and what cliques they belong to. The takes in the film are uninterrupted which adds to the slow hypnotic pace. The camera work is dead slow and there are many long held shots. The film consists of little narration and it uses flashbacks that are quite indistinguishable from the present. The soundtrack to the film is very strange. It mixes classical songs such as Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise also written by Beethoven with. Music concrete, natural sounds that are heightened to become surreal. The Moonlight Sonata creates a very dream like atmosphere. On the other hand Fur Elise is used to heighten tension and we associate this music with Alex and this frightens us. We tend to think of danger whenever Fur Elise is played. The film consists of both diegetic and non diegetic sound. Unlike ...read more.

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