This weekend I finally saw Elephant—I’d been meaning to see it for years. I had seen Gus Van Sant‘s other two films in his “death trilogy,” Gerry and Last Days, both in the theater. I don’t know why I had missed Elephant. I think probably because it came out the same year I moved to NYC, and that year was chaotic. It escaped me. Anyway, it was like the other two films in a lot of ways, slow-moving up until it reached a violent crescendo, with dialogue that was very realistic and seemingly improvised. Unlike the other two, I didn’t recognize any of the actors. Just like the other two, I was held in a state of suspended shock up until the moment of the violence. It wasn’t unexpected, but still my mouth was agape as it finally happened. I think it was because of the way Van Sant personalized his characters up until that final moment. They all seemed so “normal.” I felt for all of them and wanted them all to escape death, but who made it and who didn’t was totally random. Just as the act of violence itself was totally random.