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Elephant - Preview

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 event'.

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 school massacre.

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 taken place.

"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 approach."

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 year.

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