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  • Elephant

    Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on April 30th, 2004

    Overall
    Film
    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    (out of 5)

    

    Synopsis

    The film spirals around and around the last half-hour or so at a high school before twoheavily armed students arrive to slaughter their classmates. Again and again, we go over the sametime segment, but Gus Van Sant’s constantly moving camera takes a different POV each time,and interactions that were fleeting background at one moment become central on the next goaround. Anyone who has survived high school (one of society’s most successful attempts tocreate Hell on Earth) wil… cringe in recognition at the very, very recognizable character types:the jock, the outsider, the plain girl, the anorexic shopping clique, and so on. Types they maybe, but they are also staggeringly true to life. Van Sant conjures completely naturalisticperformances from his young cast. He also pulls off an impressive balancing act with his killers.He keeps them human, proposes all sorts of reasons as to why they go on the rampage(which is chillingly well realized), but never plumps for any particular answer.

    There is one misstep, though it is an understandable one. The only time Van Sant violatesthe self-imposed rule of sticking to the narrow time frame is when he finally shifts to the killers’POV. Suddenly, we are in a flashback to the pervious day. The shift is at first very confusing,and even when the audience catches up, the fact remains that the film’s carefully wrought unityof space and time has been disrupted. I can see why Van Sant found it necessary to break thelaws of his own film, since it is difficult to see how we could learn what we must about thekillers otherwise, but the crack in the film’s meticulous structure remains.

    Audio

    You have both 5.1 and DTS here, but neither is particularly well exploited. There are plentyof opportunities for effective surround: though the film is quiet, there are all kinds of backgroundnoises, and judicious use of the rear speakers would have plunged the viewers even moreforcefully into the high school environment. There is, however, very little surround. The audiois crystal clear, though, and there is some good left-right separation.

    Video

    The picture comes in both fullscreen and 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratios. In arare switcharound, in this instance the fullscreen aspect is the original theatrical release format.The colours are naturalistic yet cool, almost clinical, fitting the detached tone of the film. Thereis a little bit of grain in some of the blacks, but generally the image is sharp, solid and free ofedge enhancement.

    Special Features

    Very little here, which is disappointing, given the splash this movie made. The extras areon Side B of the disc, and consist of the theatrical trailer (along with an ad for HBOmovies), and a behind-the-scenes featurette. “On the Set of Elephant: Rolling Through Time”is a short, impressionistic collection of scenes showing the film being made, interspersed withvery quick interviews with the cast and crew. The tone of the featurette is not unlike that of thefilm itself. The menu’s main screen, intro and transitions are animated and scored.

    Closing Thoughts

    A strong film, which even manages to find some humour in the midst of the horror (nowTHAT’S a brave move). The disc is disappointingly bare, but don’t let that discourage you fromseeing the film.

    Special Features List

    • Making-of Featurette
    • Theatrical Trailer
    Posted In: 1.33:1 Fullscreen, 1.78:1 Widescreen, Disc Reviews, Dolby Digital 2.0 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital Mono (French), Drama, DTS (English), DVD, HBO

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