Elephant the Movie

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Gus Van Sant's Elephant was at once critically praised and denounced by both film reviewers and filmgoers alike. The cinematography takes you on a waltz throughout a seemingly typical day at an unnamed high school, stopping through the journey to focus on the stereotypes of school. The jock, the quirky artist, the cliqued girls, the skateboarder, they are all represented and representative of his film. Van Sant created a film, seemingly without a staunch opinion on the horrors of the Columbine shootings. The movie seems distanced from the actors and their actions: an unaware participant from the tranquil introduction to the gruesome climax. His seeming lack of a purpose, lack of a reason for the creation of this film, is exactly the impetus that drives its core meaning. The high school was as stereotyped and typical as possible, a campus where everyone swears they've visited once in their life. The visceral climax is at once both slowly built up to inevitability by the characterizations of the assailants, yet it also strikes the school suddenly and without warning. Van Sant's film is a series of seeming contradictions and paradoxes that create the illusion that he has no stance on the Columbine shootings. His stance, however, is given away in the purposelessness of the film; the idyllic simplicity of the school, and its subsequent destruction, has no purpose. The Columbine massacre had no purpose. Gus Van Sant's aestheticized school builds up a world that seems tangible to most students. He carries every right to create his own world and tear it back down. It is this beauty that he creates that makes the film so much more shocking when it ends. Aesthetic realism is the concept of accepting reality as unchangeable; therefore, one must find the beauty that is inherent in everyday life instead of attempting to create beauty. The idea is that aesthetic realism "sees all reality including the reality that is oneself, as the aesthetic oneness of...
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