The Violence of the Unsaid in Van Sant’s Elephant and Paranoid Park: The Active Role of the Viewer in Creating Narrative Meanings

By Ana Paula Barroso.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The narratives of the films Elephant and Paranoid Park are full of gaps concerning narrative meanings and they demand an active and persistent viewer so that these gaps can be filled in. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the films should be seen as narrative flaws, on the contrary, Van Sant’s intention is to provide the spectator the necessary interpretative skills so that the unsolved ethical and moral paradoxes are not an ending but a means for a reflexive and creative reading. The subjective response of the viewer is important for the director and these films focus on brutal and irrational violence, always a controversial topic for discussion. Both films go against spectators’ expectations since they don´t provide cause-effect answers for such a complex problem. Van Sant’s non-linear, elliptic and repetitive narrative structure and distant camera mean a rejection of creating an illusion of the real; instead they ask the spectator to feel and think: about both the film-world and his/her own world. In the end they require more of a philosophical attitude instead of just simple entertainment.

Keywords: Teen Violence, Viewer’s Active Role, Aesthetics, Silence, Morals, Identity, Narrative Meanings

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp.179-188. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.148MB).

Ana Paula Barroso

Phd Student, Cinema and Art Studies, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal

Teacher of English Language and Literature. My interests range from Literature to Cinema and Videoart. Master in Cinema studies on the work of David Lynch. Current interests involve the study and research on teen violence, specially the films of Gus Van Sant and Larry Clarke. Besides research I’m also doing some creative work, specially on short film and videoart. I prefer working on non-commercial authors and I’m always eager to learn more about new and experimental films, sice they are more interesting and are always a breakthrough experience to live and reflect upon.


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