Author Topic: The Elephant Man (1980)  (Read 2943 times)

Offline Antares

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The Elephant Man (1980)
« on: February 19, 2010, 01:17:18 AM »
The Elephant Man





Year: 1980
Film Studio: Paramount Pictures, BrooksFilms Productions
Genre: Drama, Classic
Length: 124 Min.

Director
David Lynch (1946)

Writing
Christopher De Vore...Screenplay
Eric Bergren...Screenplay
David Lynch (1946)...Screenplay
Sir Frederick Treves (1853)...Book "The Elephant Man And Other Reminiscences"
Ashley Montagu (1905)...Book "The Elephant Man: A Study In Human Dignity"

Producer
Stuart Cornfeld
Jonathan Sanger

Cinematographer
Freddie Francis (1917)

Music
John Morris (1926)...Composer

Stars
Anthony Hopkins (1937) as Frederick Treves
John Hurt (1940) as John Merrick
Anne Bancroft (1931) as Mrs. Kendal
John Gielgud (1904) as Carr Gomm
Wendy Hiller (1912) as Mothershead
Freddie Jones (1927) as Bytes
Michael Elphick (1946) as Night Porter
Hannah Gordon (1941) as Mrs. Treves

Review
       I remember one Saturday night back in late 1980 when my parents came home from the cinema and were lauding over the film they had just seen. My father was an avid movie fan, but dry and artsy films were not to his liking. So when he enthusiastically told me of his appreciation of David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, I knew that the following weekend I would be sitting somewhere in a darkened theater. As the film ended, I along with the other patrons in the movie hall, sat emotionally drained from witnessing the cruelties inflicted upon this man. Mother Nature had dealt a cruel hand to John (Joseph) Merrick, born with a debilitating genetic combination of Proteus syndrome and neurofibromatosis type I; his physical features became grotesquely disfigured throughout his young life. Relegated by his condition to the status of a side show freak, he lived a life of abject scorn and poverty in the squalor of slum neighborhoods in Victorian London.

       Rescued by a young doctor named Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins), who was interested in the medical aspects of Merrick’s condition, he subsequently would become the curiosity of the aristocracy, as it became clear that Merrick was a man of inner depth and charm. One would think that the years of exploitation at the hands of a drunken carnival barker would have destroyed the man’s ability to co-exist in a world that was outright hostile towards him. It is here that Lynch allegorically compares the similarities between Treves and the barker Bytes (Freddie Jones), as to the varied, yet equally distasteful exploitation of Merrick’s condition. While Bytes needs Merrick to sustain a livelihood, Treves’ utilization of his patient as a stepping stone to medical advancement and prestige is equally disturbing. In the end, Treves’ manipulation is the lesser of the two evils and Merrick spends his remaining days living a docile and charmed existence.

       I would remiss in my summary if I did not touch upon the remarkable performance by John Hurt as Merrick. Through his inflections, mannerisms and portrayal we come to accept Merrick for what he truly is; a human being. Many will touch upon the scene where Merrick is cornered in the London subway by an angry and curious mob, and his impassioned response, I am not an animal!... I… am… a human being!, as the most poignant moment in the film. But for me, it is in the scene with Mrs. Kendal (Anne Bancroft) when she comments on the cardboard cathedral he has created, that is the most touching. As he imparts to her that he must rely upon his imagination to finish the structure, as he can only view the spire from his window, a sense of finality comes across his face as he understands that he is a prisoner of his physical appearance and destined to live a separate and sheltered life.

       Many film lovers have debated whether or not this film should have won the Best Picture Oscar for 1980. Up against Raging Bull and Coalminer’s Daughter, it would eventually lose to Ordinary People, a good film in its own right, yet slightly less prestigious in the company of the three mentioned. The true debate to me is whether John Hurt or Robert DeNiro deserved the Oscar for best performance by a lead actor. From my side of the fence, while DeNiro’s portrayal is dynamic in its controlled excesses, Hurt’s performance rings true to the sincerity and compassion of a man who woke up every morning in his own living Hell. It is another time in Academy Award history that there should have been co-winners. If you haven’t seen The Elephant Man, don’t be put off by the quirkiness of Lynch’s other films. For one time in his career, he stays on a true path of coherent storytelling and the result is emotionally inspiring.


Ratings Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2010, 11:48:23 PM by Antares »

Critter

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Re: The Elephant Man (1980)
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2010, 02:04:23 AM »
This is one of the very first films my media class studied in school. We studied it for a year on and off, in that time we watched the whole film again and again, as well as certain scenes many many times while studying it. For that reason you would think I would be sick of it by now but studying it actually made me love The Elephant Man even more. Fantastic film from start to finish.

Touti

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Re: The Elephant Man (1980)
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2010, 03:51:30 AM »
One of my favorite movies.................with one of my favorite actors.

Najemikon

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Re: The Elephant Man (1980)
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2010, 08:18:46 AM »
Love this film. Fully agree with you on Hurt's performance. I'd also add I think this is one of Anthony Hopkins best too. He so easily slips into being "Anthony Hopkins" that I enjoy seeing him actually work at a part.

snowcat

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Re: The Elephant Man (1980)
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2010, 11:31:18 AM »
As much as I like this film its the most un-Lynch film ive seen by him! its my least favourite of all of his films :p I was always more of a fan of his shorts.

Najemikon

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Re: The Elephant Man (1980)
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2010, 12:12:53 PM »
The fact that I believe this to be the best film Lynch has ever done probably tells you what I think of him in general! But to be fair, I don't think it should be judged as a Lynch-ian film and all credit to him for pulling it off. Even the Straight Story could be considered a proper Lynch film before this...

snowcat

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Re: The Elephant Man (1980)
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2010, 12:26:59 PM »
Hmm, well... I think alot of people consider this his best film. I have to admit a few times I have got bored watching it.

I always liked how strange his short films were, and was kind of :/ about this one being different...

:p It makes me want to watch Twin Peaks again! season two gets a re-release soon! so I will wait a month or so

Offline Achim

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Re: The Elephant Man (1980)
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2010, 08:21:37 AM »
David Lynch is, well, David Lynch. His films usually do my head in a little (Eraserhead comes to mind :laugh:), but I have enjoyed several of those nonetheless (Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart being on top of that list). It wasn't until much later that I found out that a favorite of mine when I was a teenager was also a Lynch film: The Elephant Man. About the most mainstream he had ever been (I would think that The Straight Story, which I haven't seen, fails here for not being as accessible for the mainstream audience...).


Lynch, well, there is a director who would be interesting in a film debate thread... :hmmmm:

Touti

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Re: The Elephant Man (1980)
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2010, 04:15:03 PM »
He so easily slips into being "Anthony Hopkins" that I enjoy seeing him actually work at a part.

That's why he's one of my favorite actors, this "being Anthony Hopkins" thing.  It's something I felt we lost for many years after "The Silence of the Lambs".  Some of the movies he did after that were good but the ones I've seen didn't have this "Hopkins" thing.  Then it came back in "Fracture" and I absolutely loved this movie. 

Offline Antares

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Re: The Elephant Man (1980)
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2010, 05:06:05 PM »
He so easily slips into being "Anthony Hopkins" that I enjoy seeing him actually work at a part.

That's why he's one of my favorite actors, this "being Anthony Hopkins" thing.  It's something I felt we lost for many years after "The Silence of the Lambs".  Some of the movies he did after that were good but the ones I've seen didn't have this "Hopkins" thing.  Then it came back in "Fracture" and I absolutely loved this movie. 

Have you ever seen Amistad? He was the best part of that film.

Believe me, for me to praise anything about that film is difficult because of the BS I put up with during the production. They shot it in Newport while I was working there, it was completely Hell.