My review of: The Elephant Man (1980

Director: 
David Lynch

Lead Roles:
   John Hurt as John Merrick (Joseph Carey Merrick ) Antony Hopkins as Frederick Treves Anna Bancroft as Mrs Kendal

Fig 1. The Elephant Man Box art

The Elephant Man is based on the true story of John Merrick, a nineteenth century Londoner in his early-twenties, stricken with bodily deformities including scoliosis and cranial disfigurement. This 1980s film, directed by David Lynch and written by himself, Christopher De Vore and Eric Bergren, depicts nineteenth century London as a dark, dank and industrial encrusted world, visually the crisp black and white transition keeps that image in your mind from start to finish and continues to adds metaphorical depth into the gruelling inequality of that era. The film begins with a doctor from the London Hospital, Frederick Treves, played by Antony Hopkins, looming through and surveying a freak show. Frederick Treves is a very controversial character amongst the flow of bustling people, all anxious to view the abnormal and pass judgement within their own singular hierarchy, Frederick Treves’ interest evidential slices through the cascading lights and carnival music from the word go, really showing how strong-minded he is as a main character. Upon the scene of which the ‘Elephant Man’, John Merrick, played by John Hurt, is revealed privately under supervision from Mr Bytes (Freddie Jones), his dubious carer, Treves then breaks down and begins to cry.

Fig. 2 Treves becomes tearful

David Lynch seems utilises this scene to establish the first major showing of true sympathy towards John Merrick. Using Frederick Treves is built to be seen as a precursor of his strong willingness to help this vulnerable man, arguably, scientific curiousness could be the cause of those tears, yet these are only some of the ideas Lynch staples into the viewer’s mind.

Treves then helps John Merrick via admittance to the London Hospital, aiming to finally release him from his life of disrespect as a freak show attraction, this gesture is made to be seen as being in the name of scientific study but Lynch intends to steadily depict Treves’s emotional link with John Merrick, it is this link that gradually increases as John Merrick tends the reveal more about his truer nature. Lynch gives the spectator the chance to grasp what aspects of the film, truly portray how or if John Merrick’s life is changing as he is introduced into proper society, as said by Eleanor Roosevelt “Remember always that you not only do you have the right be an individual, you have an obligation to be one” (Roosevelt.E) This thought provoking statement seems like a fitting basis for how John Merrick lived his life, individuality is his, yet society itself, the very thing he tries to fit into is also caused that individuality to skew and warp in conjunction to popular belief rather it being proven by himself. “The Elephant Man is a memorable film about human survival and a powerful commentary on human exploitation.” (Webster, 2004) explains Brian Webster. The exploitation of Joseph Merrick is essentially the main theme of the film and David Lynch pushes this through the production to evoke emotions that helps the spectator’s eye cast in and out of a curious zone of thought, thus a lot of emphasis is plastered on how his treatment as a side-show freak is found relatable to the to the livelihood Frederick Treeves has helped him gain. As people had come to visit him as a staple of gruesome imperfection, the later visits from which he is sat down to speak with higher members of society was designed to be found similar in the sense that he’s still placed as an advertisement for social non-conformity, Frederick Treeves is realising this, feeling that the only major difference from when he was first assessed when masked to being in his suit and ‘socialising’ is the fact he’s now talking.

Fig.3 John Merrick in Treeves’ office

List of Illustrations
 Fig. 1.The Elephant Man box art [Printed box art] At: 933&tbm=isch&prmd=imvns&tbnid=4DAAXB6OshNN8M:&imgrefurl= m/en/collection/show/8The_Elephant_Man&docid=oyT5ECfEJo5afM&imgurl= hments/products/8/cover_en/large_THE_ELEPHANT_MAN.jpg&w=800&h=1006&ei=EjSXTtm_IIXs8Q OEgt3dBQ&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=1602&vpy=471&dur=4224&hovh=252&hovw=200&tx=84&ty=128 &sig=113758053899536254831&page=1&tbnh=140&tbnw=113&start=0&ndsp=50&ved=1t:429,r:38,s :0 (Accessed 13/10/11) Fig. 2. Frederick Treves’s shock [Frederick Treves, emotional shocked over view the John Merrick] At: (Accessed 13/10/11) Fig.3. John Merrick in Treeves’ office [A shot of John Merrick being assessed in Frederick Treeve’s office] At:

   Roosevelt,E.(N/A) Think Exist l (Accessed on 28/10/11) Webster, B. (2004) Rotten Tomatoes (Accessed on: 30/10/11)