Plot – A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous facade, there is revealed a person of kindness, intelligence and sophistication – The Elephant Man.
Director – David Lynch
Genre – Drama
Released – 1980
Be it John Merrick’s inner beauty eclipsing his physical abnormalities or the interesting direction choices Lynch made during the production of the movie including the use of black & white, the overriding message behind The Elephant Man is “Looks are deceiving”.
Probably better known for surrealist works of cinema, Director David Lynch’s The Elephant Man explores the harsh realities of life in a way that may come as somewhat unexpected to fans off with his later work. Though if you pay enough attention, you’ll notice the small elements that would later become Lynch’s trademarks, namely the dark surrealism and the almost dreamlike atmosphere, while the use of black and white cinematography gives the film a look reminiscent of the early cinema that was blossoming at that time in which the film is set.
Focusing on Merrick’s (Hurt) life under the care of Sir Treves (Hopkins) and the friendship that grew between, the plot progresses at a good rhythm, trying to stay as true as possible to the real story of Merrick, albeit with a couple of alterations due to the practicalities of the filmmaking process and while some may feel elements were added or filmed in a particular manner to be emotionally manipulative, I find it difficult to see a different way in which to truthfully present his story.
While Lynch and his team deserve immense credit for producing this beautiful movie, it’s the cast that makes The Elephant Man a timeless masterpiece. John Hurt’s uses his voice to great effect in an inspired performance, wonderfully portraying all the emotions despite all of Merrick’s facial deformities. It’s definitely one of his most accomplished performances and up there with the best of the decade. Anthony Hopkins as Sir Frederick Treves is, as usual, very polished in his role and provides an excellent balance to Merrick.
Lynch’s The Elephant Man beautifully does John Merrick’s story justice through impeccable acting and sublime direction. Merrick, a man who despite being a prisoner in his own flesh was still a brilliant young man with ideas, dreams and ambitions just like any other, while his charm and bravery inspired almost all he came into contact with and helped change attitudes people shared towards those with disabilities.