Dear Gus Van Sant,
Congratulations on your recent honors at the Cannes Film Festival. I'm sure American audiences are eagerly awaiting the domestic release of your masterpiece, Elephant. I had the good fortune of viewing the trailer for Elephant over the weekend when I saw Lost in Translation. Boy, that Bill Murray is a card, isn't he?
Anyway, at first I though the trailer may have been for that movie Thirteen, despite the trailer's overall lack of latently homosexual teenage girls. Then I saw the shot of the two boys dressed in camoflauge entering the school carrying big scary looking duffel bags, and I knew that something more was afoot. When the pretty blond boy asked the camoflauge guys what was going on and one of them said, "Leave and don't come back," I became very excited indeed. Not only had someone finally mustered the courage to make a film about Columbine, but they were even including the minute details of the actual event. As we all remember from the media saturation following the shootings, one student related his chilling account of being warned of the impending chaos immediately beforehand. And there it was, playing out right in front of me, on a movie screen. Way to go, Gus! I thought.
Excited about the prospect of a Columbine dramatization, I rushed home to investigate the film further on the Internet Movie Database. And you know what I found? Oregon. Orefuckingon. A movie about a "Columbine-like event" at a high school in Oregon.
At first I was disappointed, but now I realize what you're up to, and I applaud you for it. You obviously read the Time magazine article discussing the videotape that Dylan and Eric made before the shooting, wherein they mused about big directors fighting each other over the film rights. Not wanting to vindicate them, you stole their story and changed their names. Brilliant! That'll show 'em. And which is more, you're respecting the victims by not exploiting them in film form. Why, not only have you, as I said, changed the names of the students who were killed, injured, or otherwise deeply traumatized by having their high school taken over by two gun-toting killers, but you further removed them from their own experiences by moving the action several hundred miles away, into a whole nother state! I'm sure the residents of Columbine appreciate your sensitivity, Gus. I know I do.
Keep up the good work, Gus. I'll be the first in line when Elephant hits theaters here in the states. And if anyone says, "Oh yeah, that's that movie about Columbine," I'll be sure and say, "What kind of insensitive prick would make a movie about Columbine? Elephant is a wholly original work about a fictional event in Oregon. Written and directed by Gus Van Sant. You know him, he did the Psycho remake."
Robert H. Bork
P.S. If you run into the director of Sylvia at any of your indy film parties, you may want to let her know that, despite what her trailers may say, Sylvia Plath was not the most powerful voice of the 20th Century. I doubt she'd even make the top ten.