The Violence of the Unsaid in Elephant and Paranoid Park by Gus Van Sant: The Active Role of the Viewer in Creating Narrative Meanings
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: Viewer's Active Role, Aesthetics, Violence, Silence, Philosophy, Narrative Meanings
Ana Paula Barroso
Phd Student, Cinema and Art Studies, University of Lisbon