I recently watched Gus Van Sant's latest work, Elephant, a documentary about the kids at Columbine High. Gus is no slouch, at least not when it comes to technical performance, camera and actor direction and so forth, I'm not sure about the script though.
The characters are very, shall we say, human, but not particularly alive. The film sets a very authentic tone, the school and its students and teachers seem very real, not at all hyped up. Unlike most depictions of schools, where the halls are full of life, excitement and whatever else, these halls are empty, long and lonesome. The characters though, are all strangers. Especially the two kids who committed the crimes and later killed themselves, they're strangers. The focus of the film is placed on characters which are more or less irrelevant to both the story and the events that took place.
Although the acting and the technical aspects of the production is impeccable and quite impressive, there are no live characters. The violence is perfectly depicted and leaves a feeling of disgust and sorrow, but the questions everybody are asking themselves -- why did they do this, how could this happen -- are never answered, nor pondered over, even dealt with in any way.
One very short scene shows one of the two would-be-killers being mildly mocked in class, but certainly not pushed-over-the-edge-of-sanity-like mocked. The director plays with different perspectives to events by different characters, which has the potential to show how different people experience events, such as mocking, in different ways. But, for some weird reason, this doesn't happen. Instead, these different perspectives by different people depict completely irrelevant events, for no useful reason.
The characters we get to follow and learn a little (emphasize little) about aren't the two characters, the killers, which we are dying to know more about. The documentary doesn't even attempt to investigate who they are, how they came to do this, what they...