In this Oscar-nominated drama based on a true story, physically abnormal John Merrick (John Hurt) endures ostracizing, taunting behavior as a sideshow attraction in mid-19th century England. Despite his horribly disfigured face and body and barely perceptible speech, concerned doctor Frederick Treves (Sir Anthony Hopkins) recognizes Merrick to be highly intelligent and works to save the Elephant Man’s dignity. Directed by David Lynch.
Brian – 10 out of 10
There’s a wonderful moment in this film that completely summed up its meaning to me. John Merrick (The Elephant Man) has been invited by his doctor (played by Anthony Hopkins) to have dinner at his home. His disfigurement, normally met with screams of terror is met with a welcome by his doctor’s wife:
His disfigurement, for one brief instance, has evaporated and he feels something he has never felt in his entire life: normal.
The Elephant Man is a wonderful, engaging, smart, beautiful, scary, and heartfelt look at a man who is truly more than meets the eye. It was a fitting decision on the part of David Lynch to shoot this in black and white. It shows the black and white, the ying and yang, of good and evil in the human spirit. We are opened to scenes of horrible cruelty towards John Merrick that are never manipulative. There was no emotional music swells or sad pianos playing. It simply presented the situation as a sad commentary on the darkness that can afflict weak men who use others for their own gain. As the film progresses, and John Merrick meets the doctor who cares for him, we start to learn that behind the disfigurement is the soul of a gentile and artistic man that desires only to be loved.
The performances throughout the entire cast are impeccable. But, it’s John Hurt’s turn as the Elephant Man that is pure magic. Through 20 pounds of makeup and prosthetics, he manages to convey every emotion perfectly through his body language and eyes. We are never in the dark as to what he’s feeling and it takes this film from simply flying to soaring. His journey from fear, to mistrust, to love is one of the rarities in movie history that must be seen to be believed.