The Search— A vision portrayed through Gus Van Sant’s Filmography and Art.
Gus Van Sant’s filmography is one that has always struck me on a deeper level through his sense of character development and embracing vulnerability through ancillary story telling.
What’s often lacking in Gus Van Sant’s filmography is what is most striking about the Director’s vision; a sense of purpose.
To understand Gus Van Sant’s filmography, one would need to understand his work as an artist.
“Paintings and films are really similar — both rely on composition and color and light — and both move in their own ways.”
In his blockbuster success, “Good Will Hunting” the audience follow a character masking his vulnerability and refusing to accept his gift as a genius. Burning bridges and shattering meaningful relationships as a form of escapism from Society.
He reviews this subject once more, in his lesser known project “Gerry”; a film set entirely on the plot of Two very dear friends straying from their path along a hike through Death Valley, only to find themselves losing sense of hope and direction as they fight for survival whilst attempting to find their way back home.
The relationship of Lost Souls and Journey through Life is a common occurrence in the work of Gus Van Sant, and none would be more synonymous with the subject than in his masterpiece “My Own Private Idaho”.
A story of success, solitude, pain, loneliness, and a constant search for belonging.
In his depiction of the gruesome events of the Columbine Massacre, he takes an eerie approach towards the subject in his critically acclaimed film “Elephant”. Setting the tone for the movie with a Stable Long-Takes and Tracking shots as it moves through the high-school following subjects as they go about their daily life as if it was just another day.
Which is what it could’ve been.
The mastery of Gus Van Sant’s work shines eloquently when Elephant is viewed a second time, only to understand how there’s a looming fear that violence will unfold at any time as we follow along the different characters aiming to ascertain who really could be the perpetrator, he deconstructs the subject matter in a humane manner.
There’s no drama, There’s no build up; it’s an observation of seemingly harmless children going about their daily lives — only to later discover the atrocity which would unfold when the audience least expects it.
Which is what Mass-School Shootings really are, when studied at a deeper level; we do not know who the culprit is, or what the purpose is, or to what end does the culprit hope to achieve?
He builds characters much like he paints them on a blank canvas, with a stark white background.
Gus Van Sant | Untitled (2010) | Artsy
From Gagosian, Gus Van Sant, Untitled (2010), Watercolor on paper, 75 1/2 × 52 in
In Elephant, the tracking shots always follow the character from behind — lurking behind them, to create the vision for the audience that the faces do not really matter. It’s often what’s right in front of us that we’re unwilling to acknowledge
A sense of blindness.
Through the many theories that follow a tragedy and a failure to comprehend what cause them; there is no single description or solution to encapsulate the travesty.
As though a blind man is describing an Elephant.
Thus, it might come as no surprise that the title itself is inspired by the Story of Blind Men attempting to describe an encounter with an Elephant.
As there’s no singular theory which could describe what causes such an event, and how we could prevent it. Gus Van Sant paints a picture for us as the blind observants in a much too crowded world; too busy to take notice of what’s right in front of us, in search for a greater Journey.