On April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in the State of Colorado, two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered twelve students and one teacher. They injured a total of 24 additional students and then committed suicide. In response to the event, a narrative film and a documentary were created that both had their say on what happened on that on that day. These are ‘Bowling for Columbine’ by Michael Moore and ‘Elephant’ by Gus Van Sant. In the documentary ‘Bowling for Columbine’ Michael Moore looks at the columbine shooting from around the subject. He doesn’t go into the details of the shooting, he explores more the reason why America has so many guns and why there is so much more gun violence. Whereas in the movie, ‘Elephant’, Van Sant follows around the two boys, Eric and Alex, the fictional versions of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, in their average day, what they get up to and what their school is like. ‘Elephant’ is better at portraying what happened because it gives us more of a reason why the boys might have done what they did. Where ‘Bowling for Columbine’ tries to show us why America does what they do and we get distracted from what happened at Columbine High School. In ‘Elephant’, we see what happened on that day from lots of different people’s perspective giving us a better view of why the boys did what they did on April 20, 1999.
Michael Moore in the documentary ‘Bowling for Columbine’, comes across as being very bias when portraying his view of what happened at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. By having this bias and making it so obvious, the documentary is not as good at showing us what actually happened on the day of the shooting. His bias is seen when, he goes back through what has happened throughout history in America, trying to blame American culture affairs and losing sight of what actually happened at Columbine. In ‘Elephant’ we aren’t distracted by any of these irrelevant events that occurred around, we focus only on the boys and what they did. This puts us ‘in the shoes’ of Eric and Alex making us see what they did. Because we also see it from not only their perspective, but also the perspective of all the other kids at the school, we get an even better view at what happened during the Columbine shooting. This makes ‘Elephant’ better because we are able to make a judgement for ourselves of why we think the boys did what they did when they shot up Columbine.
Tracking shots are used a lot to make audiences feel as though they are seeing what is happening through someone else’s eyes. They create another way for us to view the story from and make us not feel as though we are looking in on the event from the outside, but we are actually part of what is happening. In ‘Elephant’ this is used a lot, especially when the kids are walking down hallways most of the times by themselves. This gives us a view of what it would be like to be walking down there as those kids were. Another example of this tracking shot is when we follow both Eric and Alex as they walk through the hallways and are shooting up the school. By doing this we are in a way made to feel what they are feeling at the time and what it would look like to shoot as many people as they do. We are also more engaged in the film because we feel as though we are actually part of the story and what is happening and we don’t feel like we are just spectators of the event.
Audiences are usually shocked when they see violence or confronting scenes in movies and this can be a very persuasive way of showing people what has happened or what it would be like. In ‘Elephant’ there are a lot of very confronting scenes that capture our attention. The best example of this is at the end of the movie when Eric and Alex are shooting all the kids and some teachers in the school. This is very confronting because we see all the gory shots and when people are getting holes shot through them and dying. This is not