Brian’s Review – “The Elephant Man” (1980)


What’s it About?

A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak.

The Elephant Man

Directed by David Lynch

10 out of 10

By Brian

There’s a wonderful moment in this film that completely summed up its meaning to me. Actor John Hurt (Alien, Whistle and I’ll Come to You) portrays John Merrick (The Elephant Man) who 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, Mrs Treves played by Anne Bancroft:

Mrs. Treves: I’m very pleased to meet you, Mr. Merrick.
John Merrick: I’m very pleased…
John begins to cry]
Dr. Frederick Treves: What is it, John? What’s the matter?
John Merrick: It’s just that I-I’m not used to being treated so well by a beautiful woman…

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.

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    • Glad you enjoyed Brian’s review! I need to re-visit this film. Been a long while. I recall some very strong performances and beautiful cinematography.

      Thanks for checking in! Have a good weekend 🙂

  1. This sounds like a good one. His real life must have been an unfortunate one due to the endless rejection. He lived a short life! I am glad that the film did him justice as opposed to making a mockery!

    • It is a very touching and unique film, no?

      Glad you liked Brian’s review! Short and sweet! 🙂

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