Director: Gus Van Sant
Starring: John Robinson, Elias McConnell, Kristen Hicks, Alex Frost, Eric Deulen
Gus Van Sant's Elephant is a film about the ordinariness that surrounds tragedy, how days that end marked by horror can still begin in typical fashion, the change occurring suddenly and altering everything forever. Released only four years after the Columbine massacre and centering on a school shooting that bears more than a passing resemblance to that event, the film inspired some heated reactions at the time of its release, with critic Todd McCarthy (then with Variety) denouncing the film as "pointless at best and irresponsible at worst." But though Elephant is a movie about a violent event, it presents that violence in a matter of fact way, without glorifying it, and without trying to explain the actions of the killers or even necessarily to understand why things like this happen. There's no understanding something like this, so Elephant merely acts as a witness - distanced, unemotional, observing events as they play out rather than attempting to guide them. In hindsight that's probably why the film inspired such intense reaction: answers are comforting; bald recounting of tragic events are not.