Retrospective 2016

Elephant (A. Clarke)

Alan Clarke
Nordirland 1989
38 min

ELEPHANT is without question Clarke’s bleakest film. Essentially a compilation of eighteen murders on the streets of Belfast, without explanatory narrative or characterization and shot in a cold, dispassionate documentary style, the film 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. 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. (Justin Hobday)

  • Gary Walker
  • Bill Hamilton
  • Michael Foyle
  • Danny Small
  • Alan Clarke
  • Philip Dawson
  • John Ward
  • Peter Lindsay
  • Don O’ Donovan
BBC Northern Ireland
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