The Elephant Man (1980)

“You will feel the chill of horror, Yet this is not a horror story. You will feel the warmth of love, Yet this is not a love story. It is the shocking true story of a very real monster, Who was also a very real human being.” David Lynch’s interpretation of the real life story of John Merrick, known as the Elephant Man due to the deformity of his face. Played by John Hurt, he is exploited of his looks as being sold as a freak show, until a surgeon played by Anthony Hopkins takes pity on him and takes him in as a patient. This film was nominated for 8 Oscars, One more than Babe! Sadly didn’t win any of them. Actor in a Leading Role- John Hurt, Art Direction-Set Direction, Costume Design, Director- David Lynch, Film Editing, Music- Original Score, Writing- Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium and Best Picture. You can’t help but be amazed at this film, it is truly shocking, in it’s delivery, but beautiful in it’s message. This is a film just as much about looking like a monster, as it is about being a monster; the prejudices and dignity. We don’t see John Merrick’s face until half an hour in, so for the first half hour, all we see is peoples reactions to him. So in this way, it is emphasized the way people perceive him, where as Anthony Hopkins just treats him as a regular man. So we learn to think of him as just a man, before we see him as a monster. So you’ve already gathered an opinion of the character before you even see him. Much like in Jaws, your presented with a killer, before you actually see the shark. However you still don’t hear John Merrick talk until 40 minutes in. John Hurt is with out a doubt incredible, despite barely being able to use his face or much of his voice in his performance. However Anthony Hopkins is outstanding in this film. A totally underrated performance however shadowed by John Hurt. The music is great, with it’s Circus like feel making a brutal scene even more horrific and a superb use of Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber. And the superb cinematography by Fredie Francis, adding the black and white gives the Victorian realism if it wasn’t for the surreal bookend sequences at the start and finish, plus a hypnotic dream sequence half way through, this could have been a surrealist look at Victorian era. The make-up is also sublime, as you an’t help but be shocked whenever John Merrick is on screen. Produced by Mel Brook’s, but his name wasn’t used in the marketing of the film, in case his fans thought it would be a comedy.

F.O.T.M. This is a truly beautiful film, if not just for a few scene where Lynch can’t help throwing in some surrealism.

Best Line in the Film: Now I could be obvious and go for the classic “I am not an animal! I am a man!“- John Merrick. But I prefer the the profounder – “People are frightened by what they don’t understand.” – John Merrick (John Hurt)


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