The Elephant Man
The Elephant Man, directed by David Lynch, is a film about a man who suffers from major deformation of the face. He originally lives with a twisted man who mistreats him and only uses him as a side show freak to earn money. A Victorian surgeon named Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) later rescues the elephant man, aka John Merrick, and soon discovers that he’s not as scary as he looks.
"The story is beautiful, and it's very emotional - Lynch takes us into the very deepest depths of human misery, but conserves a core of decency throughout the film.”
Out of all the films we watched I think this particular film came from a totally different perspective in terms of metamorphosis. Instead of becoming “infected” with some mysterious phenomenon one day, or being inflicted or cursed by some evil spirit which might have lead to some sort of transformation, John Merrick is actually born deformed and does not transform during the film. This automatically brings more sense of realness to the film and makes you feel more emotion for the character, not to mention it actually being adapted from a true story. It makes you think more about the situation he’s had to live his life in and how people react when he’s around. These factors surely will reflect to some viewers who have their own disability which makes them stand out the way John Merrick does, before and after he became famous, and how it makes them feel. This was the main reason I thoroughly enjoyed this film.
"Treeves is an ambiguous character, although ultimately quite sympathetic. Unlike the bad guys, he抯 a proper gentleman possessing a conscience who ?at least eventually ?treats Merrick well. However, he rightly questions his own motivations, admitting that he too has used Merrick, in his case to gain fame within the medical community.
The progression and narrative structure of the story was also done very well. In the beginning Merrick doesn’t really say much, which leads to Treves thinking he is stupid. As the film progresses, Merrick starts to show intelligence and creativity. We first discover this in the scene when Merrick is being introduced to the hospital governor Carr Gomm at the hospital. We see his creative side when he is sculpting a church seen from out of his window using cardboard. This was good in many ways as it showed that although he is not very accepted in the public eye and was mistreated in the past, he is still able to get to like people and open up to them. This was also a turning point in the film where, because he was actually intelligent, he became more respected and famous in a positive way. However, as the above reviewer says, Treves became stressed after taking a step back to think about this whole situation. He wondered if what he was doing was for the good or bad, whether he was simply being kind to the elephant man or using him for his own selfish reasons of becoming a more recognised doctor (this point it subtly brought up in a scene in the middle of the film). To an engaged audience this is a great build up of suspense which leads to an unpredictable climax, but also is a bit of an eye opener on how people act to get what/where they want. This is something that happens everyday to this day.
“The moral questions raised by The Elephant Man are fascinating and the film is exquisitely realized, from Francis?excellent black and white cinematography to the awesome makeup of Christopher Tucker and ?best of all ?the acting of Hurt, Hopkins, Gielgud, Jones and Hiller”.
As for the acting and cinematography I thought it was very good, you would think that John Hurt (the elephant man) was really like that in real life (it was that good). The face was actually done using makeup which is very impressive. What helped it look so good was also the lighting and camera work. The film is black and white and you see that all the characters are simply black and white, but when filming the elephant man they add more shades of grey which enhance the look of his face and give it more detail. Also the recreation of the time period (19th century London at the peak of the Industrial Revolution) was nicely done, for example dirty streets, smog, and the constant of noise of machinery are everywhere.
Overall I enjoyed this film a lot more then some others we have watched, reason being is that it had more of a sense of realism and told a good story. I also like the narrative structure this film followed, it was more my style.