Preview by: Jack Foley
PALME d'Or winner, Elephant, fulfils a desire, by director, Gus
Van Sant, 'to go and make a television movie, something that would
be on mainstream, like ABC, CBS and NBC in America, that dealt
with the characters that I thought were in the story of the original
The controversial movie, which surprised many by taking the top
prize at Cannes, and which has been described by certain quarters
as being anti-American, is inspired by the events of the Columbine
Set at a random high school, and featuring ordinary kids, the
director uses a cast of mostly unknown actors from Portland, Oregon,
to explore the subject of high-school violence, pondering the
long-lost era of innocence, as well as the hard-line desperation
and madness of two cold-blooded killers. He felt the time had
come to speak out.
However, finding an outlet for his views wasn't easy, as many
of the major studios didn't want to take on such a sensitive subject.
Eventually, Van Sant met with Colin Calender, president of HBO
films, who told journalists at Cannes:
"It is true that we live in a world of 24-hour news, with
a constant bombardment of images and sounds bites, that have made
it increasingly difficult to decipher and understand the context
and the deeper meaning behind so much of the imagery that assaults
us on a daily basis.
"So, it is true that we look towards some of our filmmaking
as a way of providing context, exploring more profoundly some
of the issues of the day.
"When Gus first brought us this idea with Bill, it's not
that we couldn't do Columbine. But, in the end, I felt that simply
doing Columbine as a sort of drama-documentary wasn't necessarily
going to result in exploring anymore deeply the events that had
"Gus is such an extraordinary filmmaker, there was maybe
something more exploratory and less steeped in the literalness
of the events of Columbine that he could explore through a fictional
On the issue of violence itself, Van Sant said he was 'really
trying to get at more of a poetic impression, and sort of allow
the audience's thoughts into that impression and dictate an answer
or a reason'.
He has his own opinions on why Columbine happened, but didn't
feel the need to include them in the film.
"We tried to not really specifically explain such a horrific
event," he added.
The film is due for release in America and the UK later this