Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Elephant Man review

The Elephant man

The Elephant man follows a Victorian surgeon who encounters a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated and lives his life as a circus freak. He takes him intohis care where he begins to discover that under his hideous disfigurement thereis a gentle and intelligent man wanting to be normal. This film differed from all the other films in this unit as it did not follow the idea of humanmetamorphosis into an animal; however it showed the emotions of a person being different from the norm.

Throughout the beginning of the film the audience is denied the viewing of what the elephant man looks like as he is either behind a curtain or covered in his big coat and hood. This is an excellent technique employed by lynch as causes the audience to become restless, making them eager to see what the elephant man looks like and turning them into the viewers of the freak show. When he is finally revealed to us we have to watch the characters development throughout the story to begin to understand his emotions and humanity. Ken Hanke agrees and states: ‘Lynch very shrewdly places the viewer in a position where an attitude of moral superiority is impossible. He keeps Merrick out of our view for so long that we become no different from the patrons of the freak show, because we want a look at his freakishness, too, and keep being denied it. The payoff is everything it could be—we have to adjust ourselves to seeing the beauty and dignity of the man behind the deformity.’ (

Lynch is well known for his portrayal of dream-like imagery to connect the plot in his films. The elephant man is no exception. The audience is treated to a strange dreamlike sequence about Merrick’s mother being knocked over by an elephant where the use of slow-motion (another Lynch trade mark) is used. This scene is so disorientating and shows the explanation that Merrick believes to be the reason for his deformity. This is the concept of maternal impression where the emotional experiences of pregnant women could have lasting physical effect on their unborn children.

The Elephant man has some incredible cinematography in which it was shot in completely black and white. This creates an incredible picture of Victorian England being a dark and dingy setting mirroring that of the cruelty that Merrick is shown by some of the people. Throughout this we also get a feeling of crossover between reality and the norm in between the London fog, fitting in with lynch’s love for dream sequences and tying the plot together. But despite all the darkness and horrible looking streets Merrick over time is brought out of these darker places in the film and welcomed into the warm glowing light of the hospital and Treves’ house. ‘Filming in black-and-white, Lynch (and cinematographer Freddie Francis) created a tour de force image of Victorian England, where the grotesque walks side-by-side with the normal. (This is how the film of Alan Moore's "From Hell" should have looked, for anyone interested.) Fantasy flows into and out of the film like fog in the London night.’ (
A major part of the plot is where Treves begins to wonder whether his actions to bring Merrick into the spot light of the London hospital were for the good of Merrick. Treves questions his actions and believes that by bringing Merrick to the hospital he has just done exactly what Bytes was doing by creating his own freak show. Film4: ‘David Lynch's The Elephant Man raises myriad questions about medicine, the notion of vainglory and society's prejudices and asks us to wonder whether, over a century later, matters have improved.’ (
I enjoyed the Elephant man it was a very good film with incredible performances from both Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt with a very heartfelt story that may have caused a lump in the throat a little. But this film begs the questions: Have we as a society changed? Do we still prejudice people away from the norm of society? Are we that different from Bytes?.......

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