Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Elephant Man (1980) Review:

The elephant man has always been a marvelous character to comprehend. From the day he was born, he was doomed to live a shortened life span and that's not the worst part. He had to live as a disfigured individual and there was nothing he could do to change it. He lived in a time where cures for diseases were very rare and if they were available, it cost a fortune. So it is fair that this film will be tragic because it is explaining the life of a tragic individual. But it's the way it's portrayed that is questionable.

A very young Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins, an actor whose performances I've enjoyed multiple times plays Frederick Treves, a Victorian surgeon who happens to run into the elephant man while visiting a carnival event. Playing the elephant man, or by his real name, John Merrick, is John Hurt. Hurt honestly gives an emotional performance as Merrick, especially in the beginning. Merrick is quite sensitive since he never experienced any real appreciation from anybody until Treves finds him. Even more astounding is how Hurt makes his voice so gentle as if he couldn't swat a fly. That's good characterization.

John Merrick's cover
But what squashes this exceptional acting is how the view of John Merrick wasn't ever changed. The only people that saw the potential in the character of John Merrick were Dr. Treves and his wife. All of Dr. Treves fellow doctors took him only as a lab rat. The public viewed him as a freak. And the people that Merrick was with originally, saw him as an outcast, because to them, he didn't deserve what the upper class had. If Merrick wasn't in his room, which was specifically made for him, he never had it easy. I'm not saying life was supposed to be easy for him, but the script could have been written so society was a little more flexible.

I felt that this film might explore John Merrick's nightmares but I didn't think it would drag him so far down to the point of no end. I thought this project was written in recognition of the life he lived. Not to have audience sit through two hours worth of good acting and for what? To see a man, who has a troubled life get even more complicated than it was before? It at least should have had a satisfying ending but that didn't even happen. It felt more like it was a story of humiliation more than nobility. How's that recognition?

The story of John Merrick or the elephant man is a sad one, but no one said the film had to be this depressing. The actors perform well but the tone needlessly blacks it out.

Points Earned --> 6:10

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