Dir: Gus Van Sant
There are drawbacks to going to the cinema with someone else. Sure, you look less like a lonely pathetic loser psychopath, and you have someone to steal popcorn from. On the other hand, you need to have an opinion about a film as soon as you walk out. Not wishing to appear like an uncritical fool in the inevitable post-screening discussion, I took a negative position towards Elephant. Thinking about it afterwards, however, I was unsure that this was how I felt about it. Then I decided I was right.
One thing I had no problem judging was the cinema we saw it at. Have you ever been to the Odeon in Wardour Street? It’s rubbish! First of all it’s basically in an office block, on the 3rd floor, no less. After the non-descript elevator ride I was surprised to find we got in without needing to give a password to some doorman. The cinema was smaller than my office, and the screen itself was about the size of my sister’s TV. And they call this a West End cinema and charge you 8 quid? Madness.
Being in a place that small, I was very aware of the rest of the audience, and I think the people who walked out half way through had the right idea. They would’ve got a nice but quite short tableau on American high school life, like an arty Saved by the Bell. It was when all the guns and stuff came in that it lost me. For those who don’t know Elephant is Gus Van Sant’s ‘response’ to the Columbine shootings, and from what I can gather he was against them. However, the film didn’t seem to have anything more to say on the matter than that gay nazi kids shooting other kids was a bad thing.
And this was where the uncertainty came into my views. Does a film need to have a message to be worthwhile? Can it just be a thing as and of itself? I think in this case it can’t. In exchange for the couple of hours of your life you give to it, a film needs to entertain, educate or enlighten. Especially when you take on an actual event that took peoples lives. Elephant just struck me as a bit empty. Plus, the girls changing room scene certainly didn’t reach its full potential. Van Sant should consider watching Porky’s if he ever makes a sequel.