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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

279 of 1001 Movies: The Elephant Man (1980)

After watching Blue Velvet I didn't respond how I had hoped to a David Lynch movie. I then unknowingly rented The Elephant Man without the knowledge it was  Lynch movie till I researched in the moments of watching. It gave me hope that I can be a fan of Lynch's movies, and it's revived the interest I had in seeing Eraserhead. The great direction is one thing, but I don't know if more so the power of The Elephant Man is more in the acting and story than it is Lynch's talent.

Summary: Frederick Treves is a doctor who stumbles upon a sideshow freak act, The Elephant Man, who's name is John Merrick. John though is known to no one else but as The Elephant Man though. Treves though takes interest at first in only Merrick's value as a new piece of study in finding what has caused his body to become deformed as it has. Instead Treves strikes up a friendship with Merrick, and introduces him to society as more than just a freak show act.

Acting: Anthony Hopkins is the noticeable lead in this movie as Fredrick Treves. Hopkins brings his best as he usually does in a story about a man who is fighting his own want to be known for a new discovery in the doctor field by finding John, and also his own growing friendship with John who is beginning to convict him of how he is using him. He rides the line well, and still makes Treves feel like a real guy. The less noticeable lead who is John Hurt as John Merrick. Hurt brings one of his best roles to life as the guy who has been ridiculed by society for his appearance. Considering he was wearing more costume makeup than I've ever seen, he still brings the emotions through enough even though he can't make a lot of facial expressions. You still grow to really like John. There are also other cameos in the movie that are worth watching for like Anne Banecroft as the actress, Ms. Kendal. Even with her short appearances she adds a lot to the movie. There is John Geiglud as Carr Gomm who helps Treves navigate his treatment of John Merrick as well.

Plot and Filming: There has been a lot of questions as to why the movie was filmed in black and white, and in some ways I don't know how after watching you could even ask? The movie wouldn't have captured the time period the same way, and I imagine the makeup artistry just wouldn't have looked as good had the movie been in color. There is an atmosphere about the time in England they are trying to capture that is so much better brought to life in black and white, and I'm not someone who would often say that.

As for the story, it's based on a real account of a man who had the same physical deformities. The fact that it is based on his story makes the movie that much more impacting and tragic. This movie I don't think is to leave you with any greater deeper knowledge about the world than most might already know, but it is a reminder of how we treat others affects them, and how the norm for us isn't the one for others. At the very least you are getting the account of someone told that did exist, and become aware of some interesting historical stories that exist out there.

I ended up enjoying The Elephant Man more than I expected. Lynch throws in his own bought of being an artist in how he captures the flashbacks of Merrick's childhood without giving us a full blown flashback. For those searching for some deeper connection, that just isn't what this movie is about. It seems more powerful emotionally in a more human and personal way.

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