dir. Van Sant

Opens Fri Nov 7

Fox Tower

Frequently I find myself in places--primarily movie theaters, sometimes Fred Meyer--where I look around at the crowd of people and think to myself, "The world wouldn't be any better or worse if all these people were dead." Sure, it's a morbid thought, especially because it's usually a screaming baby that triggers the thought, but it could be true--who knows?

While watching Elephant, written and directed by Gus "Glass is Half Empty" Van Sant, I was inclined to think the same thing about the people on the screen. Elephant documents a couple days in the life of two grumpy teens who go all Vice City on their Portland high school. Both the boys are cardboard characters who shop for guns on the internet, play violent video games, and have a brief homosexual affair. Neither is likeable, neither evokes sympathy.

Their fellow high school students, however, are worse. We follow around ridiculous bitches who throw up after lunch. A sappy, hair-gelled guy who takes meaningful photos of everyone. A poor, curly haired dork who reshelves books in the school library. A cheesy teen couple that never stops holding hands. The world would not be better or worse if all of these people were dead. And then they are. They all get gunned down by the two boys, and it's not sad. It's a little bloody, but not sad.

Perhaps this is the point. Perhaps Gus Van Sant finds the banter of 15-year-old girls as annoying as I do. Perhaps he thinks life is meaningless. Perhaps this is just a bad movie about the most over-hyped topic in the universe. I can't say for sure. However, after leaving the theater, I felt bleak and empty, like I was following around one of the kids from the film.