Bowling for columbine is a film documentary created by Michael Moor to bring attention to the growing gun problems in America; he investigates the results of them falling into the wrong hands. He uses an extreme example of this in the film which is massacre at columbine high school, where two boys went into the school and opened fire on their class mates and then killed themselves. Two of the main questions the film asks is, why is America so violent? And who is responsible for the columbine massacre?
The film starts with Michael Moor opening an account at a national bank after seeing an advert in the paper which said that you will receive a free gun if you open an account. After completing a form to confirm he doesn’t have any mental illness he receives his free gun. I feel the Moor has carefully selected this scene to start his film with; it has been filmed using steadicam which follows Moor and enables the audience to see the expressions of Moor and the workers in the bank.
The use of steadicam shows the people working at the bank are comfortable with what is happening and none of the people in the shot seem to be shocked by this. This opening scene shows the audience how guns are accepted in American culture and how easy it is to obtain one. I fell Moor has portrayed the bank workers as being ignorant rather than being the ‘villains’, as to them this is perfectly acceptable. He wants to show the audience that to the average American citizen guns are an acceptable part of society.
This scene end with Moor asking one of the banks employees “do you think it’s a little dangerous handing out guns in a bank? ” the question is not answered but the next shot is of Moor walking out of the bank with the gun in his hand. At the same time he has used non-diegetic rock music playing over the top. He uses this final shot of the rock music and him walking out onto the streets with the gun to give the audience a feeling of anarchy in America. The columbine shooting is built up to in the film.
Firstly Moor takes you into the school and shows you the empty buildings filmed thought direct cinema. This slowly draws you into the story. The screen then splits into four. This shows the picture from four different CCTV cameras from in the school. The pictures footage on the cameras starts off as normally but then shows the shootings and what actually happened in the school at columbine. This has been done to show the contrast in the school from normal.
I feel moor has chosen to play all four cameras at once to make it harder to follow and to make it feel a bit confusing so that it relates to the confusion of everyone at the school at that time. At the same time of the CCTV footage moor uses non-diagetic sound to play phone calls to the police, which happened at the time. These start of a being calm phone call but as the shootings being on screen these phone calls being to get more frantic. This emphasises how terrible the shootings were and also personalises the story as you hear from many non-scripted individuals.
To further personalise the story there are interviews with survivors of columbine who tell their story’s of what happened. This whole scene has been made to show the results of guns falling into the wrong hands; it links in well with the opening scene which shows how easy it is to obtain a gun and shows that guns do fall in to the wrong hands. This following scene from this is a NRA pro gun rally held just days after the columbine shootings. This contrasting switch in scenes show insensitivity and represents the NRA in a bad way.
Moor wants the audience to think this way about the NRA and Charlton Heston; he is show to be the villain as he is leading the rally. This scene gives a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the gun rally; it shows that the audience can see the true intensity of it. After this Moor shifts the attention to who is to blame for the columbine shootings. He shows a series of clips of individuals blaming Marilyn Manson, saying that because the killers listened to his music he is to blame. Then shows one of his music videos which shows why people may think that he is to blame.
Marilyn Manson decides to do a concert in Littleton 2 years after the shootings the film shows how there were campaigns to stop his performance. Like the NRA rally this was shown using fly-on-the-wall filming so that the audience can see the first hand what happened, with out the presence of cameras. When Moor interviews Marilyn the film jumps between the interview and the protesting rally. Its helps the audience to sympathise with Marilyn as he is responding to what the protesters are saying and defending himself.
Moor is sympathetic towards Marilyn the camera is at the same level to him and the interview is filmed using one camera. This switching between the interview shows that Marilyn is making some good points and shows the protesters as being slightly strange. It shows that maybe people have chosen to pick on Marilyn because it is the easy option. A further way in which Moor creates a view point that Marilyn is misunderstood and isn’t responsible is where Moor shifts the blame and make the president the villain, by saying he dropped moor bombs then ever the day of the shootings.
This allows Moor and Marilyn to create the viewpoint that it is the president who is promoting violence not Marilyn. To further illustrate to the audience how bad the gun problem is in America Moor show the number of killings a year by firearms in other countries. With each number given was followed by comical images of gun violence until it came to America where the number was a huge amount more than any other country. This has been done to show the contrast between countries where guns are illegal and America.
Moor suggests that extremely high death by gun rate is that because of all these guns Americans live in fear of each other. He uses a comical cartoon to show this. It shows how white American lived in fear of each other which is why they armed them selves with guns. And how they denied black people rights because they were scared. Moor then shows how modern American is similar to the cartoon about early settlers. He plays TV clips which show how Americans are scared of the ‘black male’, and how they thought they were going to be attacked by killer bees and the millennium bug.
To further create the view point that because of guns Americans live in fear of each other Moor goes to Canada and shows how gun crime is much lower and that they don’t lock their door because they aren’t afraid of anything happening. Moor visits a school where guns have killed a pupil; he talks to a teacher to hear her account. The teacher begins to cry which is when the words “from my cold dead hands” are used to bridge into another NRA rally. Moor uses these words as a leitmotif in the film for Charlton Heston and the NRA rally’s.
This again shows the insensitivity of the RNA and creates the view point that Charlton Heston and members of the NRA are bad, therefore guns are bad. Later in the film Moor meets two surviving victims of the columbine shootings, one of which is in a wheel chair. The entire time with them is filmed using direct cinema so that it personalises the story and shows that it is unscripted. Moor wants you to feel sympathy for the two boys as they are victims of gun crime, he again show the consequence of guns in the wrong hands. He takes them to K-mark head office to protest about the selling on ammunition in there shops.
This is done to suggest to the audience that k-mark may be to blame as Eric and Dylan brought the bullets from K-mart. When his protests fail to reach anyone of any significance he goes to the closest K-mar and buys all the ammunition to show to the audience how easy it is to buy as much ammunition as you desire. One of the last shot of the film is of a K-mart spokes person saying that as of a few months K-mart will no longer sell ammunition. This shows the audience that they can make a difference and encourages them to do so.