(a pretty personal film review by Timothy J. Verret)
The film is called ELEPHANT. And, yes, there are no elephants in it. Or are there? People are just shocked when tragedy strikes. Why? Didn’t they notice the elephant in the room? School shootings, which this film explores post-Columbine, are never shocking. The signs are everywhere. If bullying is taking place in schools, and we know it is, why are we shocked when the one bullied goes on a killing rampage? When someone is taunted and teased and made to feel less than and then one day, maybe not even a special day per se, they just “crack,” and all are shocked? Why? Are we not paying attention? And maybe the elephant in the room is not in one of the school classes or on the school playground, but isn’t it at least in the room of the shooters’ homes? Are the parents and caregivers oblivious to the elephant or many elephants in the room? Or do they just don’t want to see, don’t want to believe, that their son or daughter would go to such dire and dangerous lengths?
Thank God, as someone bullied, I NEVER thought about shooting my school and/or its students. To be honest, I didn’t even have revenge on my mind to get back at the bullies. No, I just went inside, down deep, hid, isolated. I guess you can say I did “crack,” but the cracking was not on the outside like an egg; it was my yolk, my yellow ego, that got cracked. That’s why communicating about bullying is essential. I think we know why it happens, right? But do we know how to handle it when it is happening or has happened? How could we even see it if the outside looks fine? It’s when we go “in” that we see just how cracked everything is. Parents need to go “in” when their child has started to withdraw, isolate, hide. “Oh, he or she is just going through a phase.” Well, okay, but isn’t it your responsibility to find out exactly what that phase looks like, feels like, talks like when your child is in the room, not being an elephant?
And for the ones being bullied, I have this to say, “I promise you, more than likely, they won’t notice you, precious elephant, in the room UNLESS you don’t majestically and fearlessly trumpet your pain, loneliness, fear, hurt, pre’crack.’ They’re not gonna meet you on the ‘outside.’ Maybe they are too inside themselves to even notice. That is why you have to trumpet and roar and even slap them across the face with your trunk if that’s what it takes. DON’T BE SILENT, my dear elephant.”
ELEPHANT is a film of real horror; it’s the blatant horror of school shootings but it’s also the blatant horror of what goes on before the tragedy. The aftereffects of the tragedy will, of course, be felt, but the the horror needs to be felt and explored and processed BEFORE the tragedy.
ELEPHANT is a film about signs, some subtle, some glaring, but the signs are there if we are watching.
Are we watching?