Sunday, December 18, 2011

Elephant vs. We Need To Talk About Kevin

It is my lunch time and I have roughly 30 minutes to kick some thoughts around. The current thing I am investigating in my head is the weird sort of corralation between the movie Elephant and the movie We Need to Talk About Kevin. Elephant is a movie I haven't seen or thought of in quite awhile but since Kevin I am having a hard time getting it out my head became the movies talk to each other in a pretty profound way, also Coloumbine was a major turning point of my life and the way I was treated both by my school and my parents. So I tend to be pretty sensitive about it. Moving fowards.

There are a couple of observations that apply with Elephant to the this conversation. One young people, when seeing this movie, have two reactions and they are extremely polerized. One is my high school is nothing like that the other is my high school is exactly like that. I once had two people from the same school get into an argument about Elephant's representation of school and their relative experiences to it. For the purposes of this conversation it is just important for you to understand that it mirrored people's experiences of highschool sometimes almost exactly. For me it distilled into an essanace everything I hated about highschool then it murdered it but the murder wasn't cathartic or pleasing. It was tragic. No matter how bad things were they all didn't deserve to die.

The other observation about Elephant that needs to be spelled out is that it is very much a story told from the bottom. We had that photography kid who wandered the halls taking pictures, the unatractive girl who felt awkward about changing into her gym uniform, the meeting of the gay straight alliance, and of course the killers themselves. The stars, or even the represenative crowd wasn't the sports people, or the normal kids, or the popular kids. They were present but they were in no way centeral to the movie. There was no school bully present or any other thing that indicated that the shooters act was a responce to repeated physical danger. The movie itself goes through and pretty much sysmematically deconstructs the reasons behind the shooters actions from the world's most boring video game, to not having any friends, to sexual/social isolation. We are left with a puzzle that we can mostly put together but we definitly don't have all the pieces.

On the other hand we have We Need To Talk About Kevin who very specifically gives us an answer to this question. Kevin is an evil little fuck. One of the weird things about the movie is that it seems to do the whole nature versus nurture argument, coming firmly down on the side of nurture BUT I think that is a gross simplification of a very complex and compelling movie. First and foremost Kevin is presented to us as an emotional vacuum this is something that is prevelant all throughout his childhood. From when his mother broke his arm because he wouldn't stop crapping his pants, to Kevin lying to everyone about how his arm got broken, to using his scar as a way to guilt his mother, even at the age of we'll say 7 we can see that his concept of correct behaviour is compleatly over ridden by his feelings towards his mother. Note I didn't use the word hatred toward's his mother. The word is appropriate most certainly but again it is more complex than that. When Kevin got sick they came close to bonding, when they were getting ready for Kevin's little sister they bonded again, and when she got caught looking through Kevin's room. The bonding between them isn't one that I would call love, as Kevin would never allow for that amount of emotion to be shared between them. Instead it is more of a respect, and an absolute sort of honesty that is almost terrifying to behold. Kevin is the ultimate isolationist yet at the same time his mother is the only person who really knows him. He don't have a little buddy that he shoots up the school with, he does it all on his own. He does it, and we think we know why, right up until the very ending which is both powerful and haunting.

Both movies involve a fantastic amount of pointless violence towards people who don't deserve it. In Elephant it feels like they are lashing out against an institution that didn't for them or about them. In Kevin it feels almost, like he is lashing out against himself and the world he is being forced to live in. Oh well lunch is over.

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