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Elephant (2003)

Film by Gus van Sant
Music by Hildegard Westerkamp / Frances White /
Ludwig van Beethoven

Sound by Leslie Shatz

In cooperation with Babylon

Almost incidentally, without commotion, in quiet tracking shots, the 35mm camera follows its outstanding amateur actors going about their school day and daily life.
Trivial events and non-events just like the pupils Nathan, Carrie and John experience every day, are artistically interwoven in Elephant with the real happenings of the shooting rampage by the two teenagers, Dylon Klebold and Eric Harris (also personified by amateur actors), who murdered twelve students and one teacher at Columbine High School in 1999, before turning the gun on themselves.
Van Sant avoids simple psychological models of explanation for the incomprehensible act. The hours before the massacre are recounted as flashbacks in short snapshots, when they end in the final part of the film during the unexpected catastrophe. The slowness of the film seem almost meditative.
In keeping with the dramaturgic concept of the film, the excellent sound design by van Sant and his sound designer, Leslie Shatz, also abstains from melodramatic moments.
The effectiveness of the sound track is displayed in its radical reduction using sound collages from William S. Borroughs and Soundscape-Recordings by the composers Frances White and Hildegard Westerkamp: Hollywood meets sound art. The compositions are employed in disassociation with the images and in doing so reveal their uncanny effectiveness: a soundwalk by two egoshooters down the school hallways to the sound landscape of Californian cloud forests.