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Elephant by Gus Van Sant Essay

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In today’s society many different forms of art constantly surround us. The music blaring through your headphones, the advertisements we come across, and even the buildings peering high above the New York skyline can all be considered art. One of the most popular mediums of art in the present time is filmmaking. Film uses moving photographs to narrate a story, express emotions and convey ideas. The unique aspect of the art of film is that it allows the viewer to become its subject or characters and experience their situations as they are occurring. Gus Van Sant uses this characteristic to his advantage in the 2003 film “Elephant”. Elephant tries to capture the actual and unseen events of the tragic Columbine Massacre in attempts to make sense of a senseless act, while at the same time being true to its senselessness.
On April 20th, 1999, two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, launched a deadly assault on Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado. Armed with a rifle, shotguns, and numerous explosives they wreaked havoc on their school. In the end twenty-four people were injured and fifteen, including the shooters, were dead. It was a tragedy that echoed around the country and will be remembered as the worst school shooting in American history. Gus Van Sant took this incident and decided to interpret it in his own artistic vision. “Elephant” is not a drama; it is not a documentary. It is just a free-floating meditation on the tragedy. The film puts you right in the moment, in real time, with the victims and the killers while doubling back on itself, making chronological jumps and repeating its narrative from different perspectives. It is purposely made to be vague so as to leave the viewer perplexed but, at the same time, st...


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...gh school student who is friend to all, even the shooters. The next character we come across is a photographer, Elias, who spends much of his time taking photos of his student subjects and scrutinizing his pictures in a darkroom; Elias can be depicted as the “artsy” kid. Then it's on to the attractive couple, Nathan and Carrie and then to a trio of materialistic cute girls, Brittany, Jordan, and Nicole, who gossip, complain about their parents, and make their ritual pleasure trip to the girls' room to vomit up their lunch. Michelle, a plain, slightly overweight girl, who won't wear shorts in gym class and is sadly alienated from her peers, is later introduced. Last, but certainly not least, Alex and Eric come on screen. They are the outcasts who are bullied and later show up at the school with giant duffel bags full of automatic weapons, ammunition, and explosives.



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