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  • Lars Henriks

Mysterium Pictorum Episode 8 - ELEPHANT

Listen to our full discussion of this rough jewel on our new podcast series Mysterium Pictorum! Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and everywhere else, too!


A man walks into an empty bathhouse at a brisk pace. The camera follows him inside, the scene never cuts. He encounters another guy, the whole meeting seems random. Without hesitation or a word of dialogue, the man shoots the other guy, keeps walking, encounters someone cleaning in another room and shoots that person, too. What an opening! Me, my girlfriend and my sister are sitting in our home theater (i. e. living room with an HD projector), completely hooked. It's a sunny day outside and it was a real hassle to get the windows all blacked out, but now we're in the dark, ready to surrender ourselves completely to the narrative of this mysterious, box-shaped short film. And then, there is no narrative. The next scene plays out exactly like the first scene. And the one after that, too. And the one after that. The random, everyday violence in a grey and empty city, completely numb to what's going on, never stops, until the movie is over. The desensitizing effect of being witness to endlessly repeated, impersonal violence is obvious among us. That's the first thing "Elephant" really nailed. Who wouldn't be numb to this kind of thing, if it happened all the time, without ever changing a bit? Next, we start researching about the conflict. There aren't many easy answers to be found.

I'm happy we got to talk to Paula Blair from the Audiovisual Cultures podcast right after watching "Elephant".

We recently met Paula, when she interviewed Nisan & me for her podcast "Audiovisual Cultures" about our Hamburg-based independent film movement.

Paula grew up in the conflict and wrote a PhD about the conflict's aftermath in media. I couldn't imagine a more perfect person to explain the inexplicable to us. "Elephant" being made for TV is the defining, most important aspect of it, to me. Putting this into everyone's living room, right in the middle of the ongoing conflict, daring everyone to just fucking look at it, without offering explanations or hope, without taking sides, just angrily showing everyone "This is fucking awful and it has to stop", forcing the viewers to think about it themselves, to discuss it, to take action - That, to me, is the boldest, best thing socially conscious film can do and I respect and love "Elephant" for that. Also, Gus van Sant has lifted concept and title for his own discussion of a societal elephant in the room. I Haven’t watched his film, but I’m sure it’s riveting. Have you seen Elephant? Has it shaken you in a similar way or did its stylistic devices not work on you? Do you guys know of any other TV film experiments like this one? Socially conscious films that are meant to shake the audience and make them think, about their own society? I feel like doing this kind of thing about times gone by or other countries is all too easy - But about ongoing horrors in front of the audience’s own doorstep? I’d love to see more courageous things like this! Television is, obviously, a very appropriate medium for things like these, but I think cinema has more of them to boast, right? Or a I completely wrong and, in your opinion, film and TV should refrain from provocations like this one?

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