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I don't know if Gus Van Sant has admitted it but it seems clear that this movie has been inspired by the shooting in Columbine High School.

Is there a link between this event and an elephant?

Why is the movie Elephant called that?

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3  
I removed the down vote as this is a pretty interesting question - however, as it is pointed out, your answer was indeed available in the link you supplied, so a little more digging wouldn't have hurt. –  Nobby Aug 11 '12 at 13:22

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

From the IMDb link in the question:

Gus Van Sant borrowed the title from Alan Clarke's film of the same name, and thought that it referred to the Chinese proverb about five blind men who were each led to a different part of an elephant. Each man thinks that it is a different thing. What Clarke's title actually referred to was the idea of the "elephant in the room", where something is so obvious that to miss it would be the equivalent of not seeing a huge elephant in an ordinary room, yet is still not recognized out of either stupidity or willful ignorance. In this film, the "elephant in the room" is the homicidal rage of Alex and Eric, which leaves them free to precipitate the last-scene massacre at their school.

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I always thought it was because of the treatment of elephants in the circus. Time and time again these elephants are abused, beaten, and whipped, which creates an inevitable breaking point and they end up stampeding over everyone. Much in the same way, these pariahs who have been bullied far too long finally explode...

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That is a different take from what I've always considered the title to be from. +1 –  TylerShads Feb 8 '13 at 13:24

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