Winner of the Palme d'Or and Best Director prizes at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, Gus Van Sant's Elephant takes us inside an American high school on what appears to be an ordinary day.
Throughout his career, from Mala Noche and My Own Private Idaho through Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester, Van Sant has explored what it is to be young and searching for a place in the world, an identity that feels true. With Elephant, Van Sant takes these inquiries into new terrain, working with actual high school students to create a portrait of teenagers in today's volatile world. Elephant unfolds on an ordinary day, filled with class work, football, gossip and socializing. The film observes the comings and goings of its characters from a gentle remove, allowing us to see them as they are. For each of the students we meet, high school is a different experience: stimulating, friendly, traumatic, lonely, hard. Beautiful and poetic - yet deeply disturbing - Elephant shows high school life as a complex landscape where the vitality and incandescent beauty of young lives can shift from light to darkness with surreal speed.
It's a beautiful fall day, and golden leaves skitter ahead of the wind across green lawns. Walking through the park on his way to class, Eli persuades a punk-rock couple to pose for some photographs. Nate finishes football practice and goes to meet his girlfriend Carrie for lunch. John leaves his dad's car keys in the school office for his brother to pick up. In the cafeteria, Brittany, Jordan and Nicole gossip and complain about their mothers' snooping. Michelle dashes to the library, while Eli snaps some photos of John in the hallway. John walks out onto the lawn, crossing paths with Alex and Eric.
* "On The Set Of Elephant: Rolling Through Time" (12 Mins)
* Gus Van Sant Filmography
* Theatrical Trailer
Elephant, the elegant and unsettling movie from Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting), depicts students at a high school before and during a harrowing, Columbine-style shooting. The movie follows one young boy who takes over the wheel from his drunken dad while returning from lunch, then loops back in time and follows another student who crosses paths with the first, then loops back and follows another--all captured in long, unedited tracking shots that are serene and unhurried, even when two boys in camouflage gear, carrying heavy bags, arrive at the school and begin shooting. Elephant doesn't attempt to explain their behavior; it simply places the audience back in the brief yet interminable window of adolescence, when life is trivial and painfully important at the same time. Your reaction to Elephant will depend as much on your life experiences as anything in the movie itself. --Bret Fetzer