Director Gus Van Sant returned to the low-key style of his early independent efforts with this semi-improvised exploration of how violence makes its way into a typical American high school. Eric (Eric Deulen) and Alex (Alex Frost) are two close friends who are students in a well-to-do suburb of Portland, OR. Eric and Alex are at once ordinary and misfits; while they seem to be confined to the edges of the clique-oriented social strata of high school, little about their behavior draws attention to itself. Or at least not during a typical school day; on their own time, the two boys are fascinated by Nazi iconography, enjoy violent video games, tentatively explore homoerotic desires, and coolly begin to make plans for an armed ambush of the school, drawing up working diagrams of the lunch room during study hall and buying rifles over the Internet. Drawing an expected degree of controversy, Elephant had its world premiere when it was screened in competition at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, where it won both Best Director for Van Sant and the Golden Palm award.
by Mark Deming synopsis