The Gus Van Sant high school drama was initially meant as a TV movie that would accurately chronicle the Columbine High School massacre. But the fictionalized version could be even more revealing of the crime's nature. Using long, tracking shots and minimal explanation, Van Sant shows a high school ecosystem that is at once familiar and foreboding. The popular kids a collection of beautiful jocks and their girlfriends alternately ignore or bully the outsiders and both interactions are humiliating. Alex and Eric are particular targets and their teachers' silence comes across as complicit.
Alex and Eric look sullen, play first person shooter computer games, and otherwise act like fairly typical disaffected teens, until they reveal themselves to be deeply disturbed. The actual gun attack follows the events at Columbine in many ways: the pair order their weapons online; they plant homemade bombs on school grounds that don't go off and then begin shooting at first together and then separately, in the hallways, library and cafeteria. In this version, Alex shoots and kills Eric.
We are meant to believe that bullying led them to these acts of extreme violence. And yet the film is an indictment of school intervention as well: in one scene Eric stands over the school's principal with his gun cocked as the principal says, weakly, "let's talk about this." It's obviously too late for that.
Next About a Boy (2002)