I think the best thing about this movie is, it doesn’t emphatize with shooters unlike the other school shooting movies. Gus van Sant did a great job with the camera. I mostly liked the post-modernist side of the movie: it does not have a main character, all characters have equal amount of time in screen and most of the scenes are specificly about those characters. I couldn’t understand the calmness of victims.
I was surprised by how depthless this is. There isn't one character that is developed; someone to care about. No attemp at an exploration. Some formal elements are quite good: what Van Sant does with time and characters' perspectives, for instance. But this is such an empty, antiseptic film; there's little substance, emotion, empathy or even much of a conflict - at least, on the level that such a subject warranted.
I understand that people are affected by this film because of the (sadly) many similar events before and after this, but I honestly don't get its appeal. The walking shots get tiresome after a while and if you really pay attention, those scenes are a high porcentage of the overall film. I know the director wanted a simplistic film but the bland characters and the lackluster acting seriously don't help it either.
'Elephant' is perhaps more relevant now than ever before after the amount of senseless violence this country has seen in the last decade. I'm haunted by the fragility of this film, the halls of the high school observed from every angle on repeat, the final moments before a massacre stretched to last an hour. The tension is unbearable, we see what's coming with no way to warn any of the students roaming around.
The non-linear structure combined with the well executed long takes make this a formally interesting film. The topic however, is a sensitive one and I do not feel that van Sant gave it the depth it deserved. His cookie cutter answers to the all-important questions that high school shootings raise, keep this film from being great.