The first time I saw Elephant, I felt physically ill by the end. This time, I was completely nauseated, as well as being more than a little paranoid. Whereas the first time I was at my safe little apartment in Bloomington, IN...this time we watched in a classroom setting. So when it was over, I had to exit the room into a building, then further onto campus, and finally the parking garage. And while the first time, I was alone in my room, this time I was forced into the presence of others. Hundreds of others...it's a campus. There are a lot of people around.
It's hard to tell just by looking at someone if they are just a little crazy (like we all are) or if they are more than a little. If they are mentally ill, if they are psychotic. When you walk down the street, how many people that you pass have the capacity to kill someone? Further, how many of them have the capacity to kill on purpose, in cold blood? You don't know. Which is one of the points of the movie.
Judgement. How many times a day do we judge other people? And how many times are we wrong? Usually, we'll never know the answer to this last one. If you judge someone negatively, you tend to avoid them. And honestly...how many times do you make a judgement that isn't negative? So even if we think we could tell, just by looking at a person, if he or she is capable of awful feats like murder or rape...would we even be right?
I think this is also something that is brought up in the movie Crash, though far more explicitly than in Elephant. We have stereotypes for people...some are justified, some are not. While Crash focuses on racial issues, there's so much more than the color of a person's skin that makes you judge. What if you saw a black man, clean-shaven, nice business suit, briefcase in hand walking down the street? Now replace that image with the same man, somewhat scruffy, longer hair, maybe in cornrows, with a ratty tee-shit and baggy jeans. What if that same image were white?
Frankly, I don't think race scares us, I think differences do.
And I think movies like Elephant and Crash (despite my actual feelings of the cinematic integrity) are good to watch because it brings us back from the way we live day-to-day life and opens our eyes. I live in a city, though it feels more like a suburb (in that we have parking lots on this side of town), but I hear sirens everyday. Usually just police cars. Every other day it's fire-trucks and ambulances. And I usually dismiss them, because they aren't affecting me right now. But today, as I was walking from class, across campus, to the parking garage in which my car sat, I heard the a fire-truck and an ambulance and I recognized what that meant. It meant hurt, pain, injury. It meant someone was scared, and someone was worried. It meant something serious was going on somewhere and that I had made myself numb to everything outside of myself. Who knows how long this will last...a day, a week? Then it will be back to a more self-absorbed viewpoint.
But for right now, I'm open.