Wednesday, 5 October 2011
'The Elephant Man' Film Review
David Lynch's 'The Elephant Man' synthesises human compassion aswell as human callousness and shows that beauty really is only skin deep. John Merrick portayed by John Hurt, was a grotesquely disfigured man from 19th century London whom is mocked and jeered by the public due to his unfortunate ailment. As we live in a current age of compassion and understanding for that which is deemed 'unusual' or 'obscure' the knowledge that this film depicts not just a character in a film but a real human being whom was forced to live like an animal is a poignant notion to how savage humans can be.
As the EMI trailer for the film eloquently observed "You will feel the chill of horror, yet this is not a horror story; You will feel the warmth of love, yet this is not a love story." David Lynch intentionally prolongs the first glimpse of John Merrick's face so suspense is built, making it all the more frightening when he is finally presented to the audience. "Brutalised by a childhood in which he was hideously abused as an inhuman freak,he was gradually coaxed into revealing a soul of such delicacy and refinement that he became a lion of Victorian society." (Milne,2006). Believed to be retarded because of his incoherent speech Frederick Treaves a prominent surgeon at the London Hospital takes in Merrick for medical analysis and finds that infact he is a deeply intellegent and cultured man.
"The Elephant Man uses some of the devices of the horror film, including ominous music, sudden cuts that shock, and hints of dark things to come, but it's a very benign horror film, one in which "the creature" is the pursued instead of the pursuer."(Canby,1980).The notion that Merrick is mobbed by crowds of people abusing him is reminiscent of a pack of animals with no politics, no morality, no line drawn between right and wrong which is contrasted with this so called 'freak' who inspite of appearence, is a warm hearted soul who yearns to be accepted by society. "Lynch exposed undercurrents of metaphysical anguish and absurdist fear, along with an accessible tale of Merrick's nobility." (Levy,2006)
Arguably one of the defining moment of the film was Merrick watching the theatre performance, The (so called) 'Elephant Man' now watching in on others performing for entertainment in a manner of sophistication and not of the savage life he had previously endured.
List of Illustrations
Fig 1 'The Terrible Elephant Man'
Fig 2 'John Merricks Hood'
Fig 3 'The Sensitive,Cultured Elephant Man'
EMI Film Trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RDW1ldM9zM (1980)
Tom Milne of 'Time Out London' (published January 26 2006)
'http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/63796/the_elephant_man.html (Accessed on October 5 2011)
Vincent Canby of The NY Times (Published October 3 1980)
http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=EE05E7DF1731B32CA0484CC0B7799C836896&partner=Rotten Tomatoes (Accessed on October 5 2011)
Emanuel Levy, Independent Reviewer (Published June 22 2006) http://www.emanuellevy.com/review/elephant-man-8/ (Accessed on October 5 2011)