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Video game style for cinematic violence

by Critical Commons Manager

Gus Van Sant's controversial, cinematic treatment of the school shooting at Columbine High School in 1999 refused to "explain" the motivations of the teenaged shooters, but it closely links the aesthetics of the film with the visual vernacular of video games. Van Sant's inferred indictment of video game violence is backed up by extra-diegetic knowledge that the Columbine shooters were indeed avid video game players in the real world, but it fails to contribute substantively to ongoing debates over potential linkage between screen violence and real world violence. Elephant's ostensible commitment to presenting a multiplicity of opinions (each segment of the film is uniquely devoted to a single character's perspective) is meant to suggest that a simple explanation for the Columbine tragedy will ultimately prove elusive. Each of the character-based segments of the film includes at least one protracted following shot that is unmistakably composed to resemble the perspective of a 3rd person video game. At one point during the assault sequence, the camera even shifts to momentarily place audiences in a first person shooter perspective before quickly shifting back. In spite of the filmmaker's attempts to suggest the complexity of potential motivations for the tragedy, the visual rhetoric of video games invoked throughout the film provides an overwhelming association between games and gun violence.

A third person perspective following shot evokes video game aesthetics in Elephant

Gus Van Sant uses multiple long take following shots to set up intersecting narrative moments

from Elephant (2003)
Creator: Gus Van Sant
Distributor: Fine Line Features
Posted by Critical Commons Manager