Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1980. Brooksfilms. Screenplay by David Lynch, Christopher De Vore, Eric Bergren, based on the book The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences by Frederick Treves, and The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu. Cinematography by Freddie Francis. Produced by Jonathan Sanger. Music by John Morris. Production Design by Stuart Craig. Costume Design by Patricia Norris. Film Editing by Anne V. Coates.
David Lynch’s mainstream breakthrough film captures a nightmarish vision of Victorian London society. Filmed in dreamy black and white, it tells the story of John Merrick (John Hurt), an English gentleman who was born hideously deformed after his pregnant mother was attacked by an enraged elephant while working in the circus. A kindly doctor (Anthony Hopkins) rescues the grown Merrick from circus life, installing him in his home and studying him while also opening him up to the pleasures of society. Anne Bancroft is excellent as a good natured actress who happily spends time with Merrick without flinching at the sight of him as most others do, and it is her friendship that inspires a sense of personal dignity in him that he never had before. Hurt is marvelous in the lead, reaching through the extensive prostheses to find the heart of this very lonely man who learns to see himself as more than a scientific curiosity. There’s also a play based on Merrick’s story, but this film is taken from the books The Elephant Man And Other Reminiscences by Sir Frederick Treves and The Elephant Man: A Study In Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu.
The Criterion Collection: #1051
Academy Award Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (John Hurt); Best Director (David Lynch); Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Art Direction; Best Costume Design; Best Film Editing; Best Original Score
Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Picture-Drama; Best Actor-Drama (John Hurt); Best Director (David Lynch); Best Screenplay