Archive of films Elephant / Elephant

2003, 81 min

Section: Horizons - Award-Winning Films
Year: 2003

As the saying goes, every blind man describes an elephant according to the part of the body he touches. It is just as difficult to define the massacre at Columbine High School. Cannes Film Festival 2003 - Golden Palm and Best Director.


A sunny day at an American high school. The camera pans across boys and girls walking on the grass, through the endless hallways of a school. They all seem relaxed, self-confident, perhaps even more grown-up than their parents. They have names – John, Alex, Eric, Carrie – but the camera doesn’t rest on any of them long enough to allow a story to begin. Nothing seems to suggest what will happen later that day. Even the drama is depicted with a certain distance: no shots of panic, no cries of fear, only the flash of surprise in the eyes of the victims. Gus Van Sant interpreted the Columbine High School tragedy differently from Michael Moore in his Oscar-winning documentary. More than the socio-political implications, Van Sant was drawn to what went on in the minds of two decent boys who decided to teach the world a lesson by killing innocent people and then taking their own lives. He doesn’t seek an explanation, realizing that the chain of causation is very complicated indeed. As the saying goes, every blind man describes an elephant according to the part of the body he touches. Cannes 2003: Golden Palm and Best Director Prize.

About the director

Gus Van Sant (b. 1952, Louisville, Kentucky) worked with Roger Corman before gaining attention with the film Mala Noche (1995) set in the gay world. He demonstrated his ease with visual shortcuts and provocation in the films Drugstore Cowboy (1989) and, mainly, My Own Private Idaho (1991). After Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1994) he turned towards more conventional movies, beginning with To Die For (1995), starring Nicole Kidman. Good Will Hunting (1999) was even more successful. He attempted a remake of Psycho (1999) and peaked in commercial film with Finding Forrester (2000). His return to more a personal statement came with Gerry (2001) and, above all, Elephant (2003), which took this year’s Palme d’Or at the 56th Cannes IFF. 


HBO Films London
98 Theobald´s Road, WC1X 8WB, London
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 207 984 5048
Fax: +44 207 984 5052

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: Horizons - Award-Winning Films
Director: Gus Van Sant
Screenplay: Gus Van Sant
Dir. of Photography: Harris Savides
Editor: Gus Van Sant
Production: HBO Films, Meno Film Company, Blue Relief Inc.
Cast: Alex Frost, Eric Deulen, John Robinson, Elias Mcconnell, Timothy Bottoms
Contact: HBO Films London


Gus Van Sant


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