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Alan Clarke's Elephant
Original broadcast details:
Wednesday, 25th January 1989
21:50 to 22:30
Elephant is without question Alan Clarke's bleakest film. Essentially a compilation of eighteen murders on the streets of Belfast, without explanatory narrative or characterisation and shot in a cold, dispassionate documentary style, the film succinctly captures the horror of sectarian killing.
The lack of narrative removes any scope for justification of the killings on religious, political or any other grounds and the matter-of-factness of Clarke's approach debases the often-heroic portrayal - by all sides - of the individuals involved in sectarian murder. Moreover, Clarke's use of a Steadicam to follow the killers before and during the murders casts the viewer as at best a willing voyeur, at worst an accomplice. After each killing, the camera dwells on the bodies slumped on floors or draped over desks for longer than is comfortable, forcing the viewer to confront the brutality of their deaths.
Filmed on location in Belfast and produced by future director Danny Boyle. The title comes from a quote by Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty who described the Troubles as like having an elephant in your living room, getting in the way of everything - but after a while you learn to live with it.
This version of Elephant comes from the Blue Underground DVD box set of Alan Clarke's work which was released in 2004. This DVD release boasts an excellent extra in the shape of a commentary track by producer Danny Boyle and critic Mark Kermode. Both men are passionate about the film and Boyle is very effectively prompted by Kermode, resulting in a commentary without a single dead spot. Boyle supplies a wealth of information on the background to and the shooting of the film, as well as his own memories of working with a man he still regards as the one of the greatest of all directors.
The commentary is at first not screen specific, but in the later stages the two men increasingly discuss individual sequences as they play out, going into some detail on the use of locations and the level of accuracy in certain scenes. Boyle also reveals that Gus Vant Sant specifically asked him if he could use the title for his own film of the same name, a work who style, structure and some of whose key sequences were clearly influenced by Clarke's original.
All kudos for producing this top-notch DVD rip goes to AW at Karagarga.
=== Video Information ===
Video Codec Name: XviD
Video Bitrate: 1460 kb/s
Bits / Pixel: 0.205 bits/pixel
Resolution: 640x464 (1.38:1) [=40:29]
Frames Per Second: 23.976 fps
=== Audio Information ===
Audio Codec: 0x0055(MP3) ID'd as MPEG-1 Layer 3
Audio Bitrate: 64 kb/s, monophonic CBR
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