Director: Gus Van Sant

U.S.A.| 2002. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 103 min.

After completing a couple of mainstream Hollywood movies (Psycho and Finding Forrester), Gus Van Sant decided to take stock and emerged with two bold experiments that draw inspiration from unlikely European sources. Elephant borrows from Alan Clarke’s film of the same name, and Gerry owes a debt to the Hungarian auteur Bela Tarr, who specialises in spinning tales of imminent disaster and apocalypse through the use of long takes and elaborate tracking shots. In Gerry, Van Sant employs some of Tarr’s camera techniques to serve an American fable which he devised with lead actors Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, who play two travelling companions searching for a trail in the wilderness. They take a wrong turn and after a few days of wandering they finally face their mortality. There’s hardly any dialogue and even less narrative momentum, but the very physical performances, the harsh desert landscapes and the long, winding tracking shots provide a palpable sense of awe and desperation. The austere visual beauty and the withholding of narrative information pave the way for Elephant and Last Days.

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