Film Review : THE ELEPHANT MAN * * * *
The Elephant Man (1980)
CAST Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Freddie Jones
DIRECTOR David Lynch
The Elephant Man is based on a true story about a young british man named John Merrick. So grossly disfigured at birth that he is unable to show himself in public. David Lynch's direction and use of black and white photography captures the essence of early twentieth century England.
Anthony Hopkins plays Dr. Frederick Treves, a highly respected doctor working in a prestigous hospital in England. One day at the circus he comes across a freak show ran by a man named Bytes(played skillfuly by Jones). His prize "freak" is John Merrick, the elephant man. Upon inspection of Merrick, Hopkins gives an emotional response to his sighting that is powerful and stunning. Dr. Treves is so moved he pays Bytes to allow him to take Merrick to his hospital to be evaluated.
During his stay at the hospital, Merrick grows close to the doctor and the mothershead, played by Wendy Hiller. The bond grows strong throughout the film, and it encapsulates us, throwing us in the corner of the elephant man, rooting for him. Freddie Jones as Bytes is diabolical and cruel, tormenting Merrick like an animal. He is also hounded in the hospital by one of the guards working there, who charges a fee to a group of his buddies to see the awful Merrick. There are many scenes where we feel sad for him and wish all his enemies gruesome fates.
The cast is brilliant. Hurt as John Merrick is tender, sensitive and vulnerable. Anne Bancroft as a theatrical star named Mrs. Kendal is mesmerizing as an affectionate friend who cares deeply for the disfigured soul.
David Lynch shot the movie in black and white, giving it a creepy yet authentic feel for the times. The make up for Hurt is great and effective in appauling us. Yet, however disgusting he looks, we cant take our eyes from him. Because deep down underneath his physical ugliness, is a warm, intelligent loveable soul who draws us in to his head, making us understand that beauty is more than meets the eye. A truly landmark film with a very important message .