Tracking “Shots” in Elephant

The long continuous tracking shots in the film Elephant, really differ the independent film from others. Throughout the eighty minute film, there are numerous scenes where the camera stays on one person at a time and allow the audience to almost get an inside peak at this person and how they are feeling and interacting through a part of their daily routine at school.

For example, in one scene the camera follows a young jock from the time he leaves his football practice to the time he meets up with his girlfriend. This is a good chunk of time in the film that the camera follows him and for the most part the scene is silent except for some occasional background commotion noise. In the Murphy reading it explains how Van Sant has a strong belief for this type of shooting and thinks it has a great impact on such a film. “These tracking shots provide the formal basis for temporally linking together the various scenes that comprise the story of two youths who methodically gun down their unsuspecting high school classmates” (Murphy 164). It is a way of showing viewers a sneak of what is occurring day to day at the high school before the shooters invade.

“Van Sant’s use of extended tracking shots through the maze of long corridors goes even further than this by implying that this disconnection is inscribed in the very architecture of the prisonlike school building”( Murphy 178). In the film, the high school is rather boring and not decorated in any way, shape, or form to which would be appealing to young students. This does represent it kind of being like a prison, and how in the shots you see how the teachers are not doing anything to stop the bullying and picking on that I occurring.

Personally I believe that the shots were rather distracting from the film as a viewer. After watching the same shot for such a long time it can become boring as a viewer and you keep hoping that something new will pop up or someone will do something to keep your attention. The shots drew on for long periods of time and it lost my attention a couple of times as I am sure it did other viewers.



2 thoughts on “Tracking “Shots” in Elephant

  1. Do you feel like Gus Van Sant used this prison-like high school to intensify the long tracking shots or was it to reflect more on his social commentary on how high school is for teenagers?

    I agree with you that the long tracking scenes could get boring, but do you feel like it intensified the mood of the film?

  2. I agree with both of the remarks that the long shot sequences could become somewhat tedious, but do you think that since there wasn’t really a script that these long moments of silence and tracking the characters became the words not written? The long shots allowed us to follow the characters and their individual actions in an everyday high school. We realize that all these kids are dealing with something (Michelle with her gym shorts or John with his father) and it is up to us as the audience to observe the characters and actions around them and figure out how they fit into the story. Although the shots became a bit boring sometimes, I think the long shots allowed us to identify more with the characters than expected. By giving them somewhat of a background, they became slates that we could identify with in some way, placing us in the position that we could have been one of those students in the high school.

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