Sunday, June 20, 2010
The Elephant Man
The Elephant Man; Drama, UK, 1980; D: David Lynch, S: John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Freddie Jones, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud
London, 1884. For curious people willing to pay for the ticket, Bytes presents a special freak show consisting out of a deformed man called "The Elephant Man". But one day doctor Frederick Treves pays Bytes to bring the man his place to examine him. It turns out his names is Jospeh Merrick and suffers from a disease, the Proteus syndrome, which will eventually kill him. He quickly becomes a medical sensation, but Merrick starts taking and quoting the Bible, making friends with Treves, who tries to cultivate him, sensing he is actually intelligent. But Bytes wants Merrick back and brings him out on the street. There, people are afraid of him, but Treves brings him back. Merrick then dies.
Suggestive tragic drama "The Elephant Man" handles the theme of dignity intensively and plays with the ever present human cliche of a "monster" - ironically in the end showing how sometimes the real "monsters" are people with an ugly soul, not with an ugly appearance. David Lynch directs a completely untypical film for him, unusually calm, quiet and "normal", crafting it cleverly since it establishes a serious tone already in the black and white cinematography and the exposition presenting an elephant. Maybe the touching story does tend to moralize and simplify some things here and there, but it always shows respect towards the main protagonist Merrick, played brilliantly by John Hurt who won the BAFTA and was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe as best actor in a leading role, avoiding sentimentality in the taboo subject that drew attention of the little known disease. The film unravels smoothly for the viewers willing to think about a serious subject, keeping its intrigue with a variety of scenes, like the humorous one where Hopkins' character Treves numbers all the complicated diseases of Merrick and then in the end adds he also "has a cold", whereas despite conventional approach, Lynch shows his talent is conjuring up a strong mood.