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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Elephant Man (1980)

Director: David Lynch

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft

Genre: Drama/Biography

Plot: John Merrick (Joseph Merrick actual name), a severely deformed man, earns his livelihood by working in London freak show.

Based on true life story of Joseph Merrick, The Elephant man is a another classic Lynch. Beauty of the movie lies in its Black & White filming which gels so well with the 19th century England, even though it is made in 1980.
It is still not clear what was the disease John suffered from, if it was a disease at all and not plain deformity.

The movie has been adopted from the novel by the same name by Frederick Treves- the surgeon in the movie played by Anthony Hopkins.

In the movie we get to see a man - dubbed as the elephant man, amusing Victorian era audience in freak side-shows.A drunkard named Bytes claims to be his owner. Fredrick Treves saves John from the clutches of Bytes.
He brings him to a hospital and is successful in convincing everyone to let John be a permanent resident there. Several tests are carried out on John and it is revealed he is only in his early twenties!
In the hospital care,after initial apprehension of the staff, John regains his confidence a bit and everyone realizes he is not an imbecile rather an educated young man. Merrick soon starts to open up and this brings forth his creative side as well.
He soon gathers a lot of fame and is regularly visited by many affluent Londoners, especially ladies. John knows he is a subject of curiosity for the rich and famous but he doesn't mind it. Though this affects Fredrick's conscience as he finds himself guilty of turning John into a show-biz item, especially after being blamed by the head nurse who is in-charge of john's care. Fredrick's beautiful wife and John himself help him clear is conscience.
A greedy man in the hospital staff sees Elephant man as an opportunity to earn a few quick bucks and brings in curious, drunk visitors every night to John's room, turning it into a freak show again. A scared John keeps mum about this night business.on one such night Bytes manages to kidnap John again and runs to Europe with him, where once again John is turned into a Freak show attraction. Merrick escapes with the help of his fellow freak show attractions, and somehow makes it back to London.
In London he is chased by young hooligans and accidentally knocks down a little girl. His appearance further infuriates the crowd and they all mock him while he is running away. Finally he is cornered and can run no more, so he gathers the courage to speak up , telling everyone "I am not an animal, I am a human being" . Whole crowd is taken aback by this act, soon policemen rescue him and take him to the hospital.
He begins to recuperate in the hospital and one of the admirer of his sophisticated charm- Celebrity Mrs. Kendal, arranges a musical theatre for him. john enjoys the show thoroughly and is pumped up again.He finishes his miniature of nearby church.
For years, John's condition has forced him to sleep upright.He longs for a good night's sleep which is evident by all portraits of peacefully sleeping persons in his room.
One night he finally decides to lie down and goes to a satisfied sleep with his mother's picture by bedside.His last words being "Nothing Will Die".

Astonishing performance by John Hurt. Watch out for the scene when John is invited over tea by Doctor Fredrick to his house.
He has never been treated well before so the care and love shown by Mrs. Fredrick bring tears to his eyes.This also causes Mrs. Fredrick to break down. A very well shot, sentimentally authentic scene.


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