Monday, October 23, 2017
THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980)
Joseph Merrick has always been a fascinating individual to me. And David Lynch has always been an artistic hero of mine, so it should come as no surprise that I really like THE ELEPHANT MAN. Yeah, it's about as historically accurate as DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR?, but who cares? It's still a great film that transports the viewer into a thought-provoking world of freaks, dark corners, peaks and lows of human behavior, and explores the definition of what it is to be a human being.
After the surrealist opening, we see London Hospital surgeon Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) walking through a carnival. There have been rumors about a certain freak show attraction known as "The Elephant Man" (played by John Hurt). He has a grossly enlarged head, thick lumpy skin on his back, an enlarged right arm, a twisted skeleton, and numerous other things physically wrong with him. The two eventually meet (Hopkins' face in that scene is so sublime that it brought a tear to my eye) and soon "The Elephant Man", whose real name is Joseph Merrick, moves into the London Hospital as a permanent guest. It is there that the good doctor discovers that inside this monstrous body there is intelligence. He's emotionally scarred from the abuse and ridicule he's endured, but once he begins to open up Merrick turns out to be a very kind and wonderful man. Not an animal, a man.
Writer/director/sound designer David Lynch might be known for his more surrealist works, but THE ELEPHANT MAN is, for the most part, a very straight-forward and skillfully told story. And the B&W photography is absolutely perfect! Outside of the actors ages, it's almost impossible to tell when this film was even made! And speaking of actors...John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins are tremendous in this film!
Overall, THE ELEPHANT MAN is kind of a downer of a movie, but it's still a remarkable achievement and worthy of your time. Recommended.
Interesting side note: It's rumored that Producer Mel Brooks deliberately went uncredited because he feared that his name in the credits would be a distraction from the serious nature of the film.