As seen in the movie Elephant, Van Sant’s uses long tracking shots style not normally viewed in Hollywood Blockbusters. Some of his shots only featuring a character or two span for several minutes long being viewed from a single perspective. According to Murphy in his article The Temporal Complexity of Elephant these long takes are a method Van Sant uses in order to make the passage of time during the events we are witnessing feel approximate to the actual passage of time. He does so in an attempt to emphasize the duration of the events. Murphy also points out that Van Sant explains by drawing out the duration of the scene it effects the way you accept you events and makes the information you absorb more devastating.
I think the film benefited from these long shots in multiple ways, as Van Sant pointed out I feel it does make scenes have a greater impact. This greater impact is that the scene feels more like an account of events, by eliminating cuts from the scenes it adds to the reality of what is happening as though you were there yourself rather than seeing it through the camera lens. This kind of ultra-realism is something that indie movies strive for often and is one of the fundamental differences between Indie and Hollywood films, which helps distinguish this film as indie.
Murphy, J. J. Me and You and Memento and Fargo: How Independent Screenplays Work. New York: Continuum, 2007. Print