If he hollars, let him go.
With Elephant, Gus Van Sant has created a moving, at times disturbing, and very reallistic portrayal of High School life. Watching this film you could think to yourself "This could be my own high school." The film follows a diverse group of students around on a day that appears to be going normally. That is until it takes a turn for the tragic.
The film is loosely based on the Columbine Massacre and explores what could've happened on the day of the shootings. Our main protagonists in this case are Alex and Eric (Van Sant decided to have all the actors just use their real names for the characters they played). Their story shows them planning the shoot out, watching a video of Hitler, and even sharing a brief kiss.
Eric and Alex's story is just one of many intertwining story lines. Other ones include average kid John (who appears in each story, I might add), dealing with a drunk dad. Nerdy Michele, feeling uncomfortable about her weight. Cool guy Nathan, who leaves the school for the day and comes back at the wrong time. And many others.
What worked so well is how it made everything seem so real. Every kid seemed like they'd be just another kid at your own high school. The kids are pampered brats. They're real teens with real issues. Most of the dialogue used in the movie was improvised so it's basically anything these kids would say on a regular basis.
I also enjoyed how the stories intertwined and how it played around with chronology. It shows basically everything that happens from a different point of view. Its simply brilliant, in my opinion.
I'm going to say, though, this movie is NOT for everyone. Not so much because of the subject matter, but the camera is basically just following these kids doing everyday activities and what goes on around them. There isn't a whole lot of spoken dialogue but the silent scenes are done really well and create a lot of subtle tension. We all know how the movie is going to end, but knowing this doesn't bring it down.
Overall, Elephant is, again, not for everyone. It is, however, an interesting film that explores high school life and ends with a emotional and disturbing ending that should have you talking about it for days.