The Elephant Man
David Lynch’s heartfelt drama is based on the life of Joseph Merrick and exhibits exploitation, acceptance and disability.
Somewhat surprisingly for the legend of the surreal, Lynch’s linear narrative is straightforward. However, his style is apparent with bizarre dream sequences and lucid montages that intervene and anchor to the emotional impact of the narrative. This film is comfortably deserving of the acclaim it has received over the years.
Anthony Hopkins plays Dr Frederick Treves, who rescues John (a slight name change for the movie) Merrick from the animalistic treatment and abuse he suffers as the star of a circus freak show. While he has rescued him and elevated his status, Treves himself has profited from the unique individual. His performance perfectly captures the character’s own inner conflicts as he begins questioning whether his motives are any better than Bytes, John’s previous captor/owner.
While John Hurt supplied the figure for the Elephant Man and is brilliant in the role, it’s Christopher Tucker’s magnificent work with prosthetics that allows Hurt to perform so convincingly on screen. So excellent was Tucker’s work, The Academy created a new category for Best Make-Up. Of course, that isn’t to say Hurt doesn’t provide a fantastic performance himself; on the contrary he acts beautifully, capturing the hearts of us all.
The Elephant Man has an array of social commentaries to express, and these are as relevant now as they were in on its release. Lynch tackles these without subtlety, but not forcefully either; simply in a reflective manner. This heart-breaking, yet heart-warming tale showcases a magnificently brave and uplifting story of human spirit against all odds and guarantees a teary reaction without the force feeding of sentimentality. As true a work of beauty as you’ll ever see.