A very interesting but maddening film. Gus van Sant has made a documentary-like portrait of one day at a high school that ends very much like Columbine. His point, and it’s a good one, is that it was an ordinary day, and we see ten or twelve students of different types. Who will live and who will die? There is no rhyme or reason behind any of it; some got lucky and some didn’t. They ran into a pair of monsters who looked like human beings, and whose idea of morality was based on video games. Not that van Sant blames video games for the violence. His point is that we don’t know why they did it, and we’ll never know. He offers no answers, and that has pissed off some reviewers. But what the hell did they expect? Is it guns? Violent movies and television? I think it was caused by something simpler: a lack of a soul. But I say it is maddening because of the endless, interminable tracking shots behind people who are doing nothing but walking from point A to point B. And walking, and walking, and walking … Still, it makes you feel detached, which is what he wants, like a floating angel, a disinterested observer.
And when the killing begins, that’s when it hits you in the stomach. Not because he dwells on it; exactly the opposite. The camera never moves to follow the action. Someone is hit, and they fall out of frame and are never seen again. The randomness of it makes you sick. And van Sant even toys with your expectations, the ones you have because you’ve seen a thousand movies with a hero, and this one doesn’t have a hero. This muscular black student walks the halls, and something in his body language makes you just know he’s going to take care of business, he’s going to stop these monsters … but he doesn’t. He never even gets to say a word. Bang, and he’s dead. This is far from a total recommendation, but from the length of my review you can tell that it fascinated me, and it’s only 80 minutes long. I’d suggest you try it.