“I am not an animal! I am a human being. I…am…a man.”
He is known as greatest freak in the world. He’s another man’s profit at the cost of his own suffering and misery. Meet Joseph Merrick, a 19th century Englishman born with extremely deformed congenital disease and known as ‘The Elephant Man’ in the local sideshow Carnival opened for public entertainment.
The film is adapted version of true story that how a kind hearted surgeon Dr Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) rescues Joseph Merrick, the local sideshow freak named as ‘Elephant Man’ (born with grotesque physical disfigurement) from his evil master and treats him at hospital with utmost humanity. Even though Dr Treves knows that he’s incurable, he kept the flame of humanity alive by his attempts to regain the lost dignity of acceptable human being in the society. Gradually he turns out as educated gentleman but still the ghost of his monstrous conception keeps haunting him in his nightmarish visions.
Director David Lynch has maintained the serious humanitarian viewpoint from the very beginning of the film to convey the message that it’s not only the film about the human miracle but on the contrary to it. i.e. - During the first encounter with an elephant man, the camera slowly zoomed the extreme close up of Dr. Treves and his sentimental expressions rather than showing what we are expecting. The scene where Joseph surprisingly tries to utter the psalms from of Book of common prayers on his own after the Dr left the room or the dining tea scene with Dr and his beautiful wife where Joseph felt the clear resemblance of Dr’s wife with his own mother are so sentimental ones that I felt goose bumps while watching them. Infect the most surprising aspect of this Lynch film is its undercurrent melodrama showing its penultimate heightened tone in climax scene.
The film maintains the grotesque suspense horror while running parallel humanitarian story between Doctor and patient. Lynch deliberately evaded showing the elephant man’s face and feature initially and that’s make the film more intriguing and involving one for viewers. John Hurt’s performance as Elephant Man is full of minute nuances- whether its showing complex expressions on his disfigured face or his struggle to utter sound under nervousness, it’s very complex character to carry. Hopkins rests in my all-time favorite actor list and he’s just brilliant here too as always. The film is shot in classic Black and White frames fully maintaining Directorial oeuvre and vision of David Lynch.
Truly a masterpiece of David Lynch.