An in depth look at the film career of Anthony Hopkins

The Elephant Man (1980) Movie Review

The Elephant Man

The Elephant Man, played by John Hurt

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The Elephant Man’, released in 1980, is considered to be one of director, David Lynch’s most acclaimed works.  Starring legendary British actors John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins.

It is  filmed entirely in black and white, lending austerity and credibility to the film’s setting in the Victorian era, post industrial revolution.  In typical Lynch style the film is punctuated with horrible hissing noises, nightmarish flashes and at times no sound at all.  A truly haunting film, more so because it is actually based on the true story of John Merrick, born so hideously deformed, he was dubbed ‘The Elephant Man’.  Merrick was forced to earn his keep in freak shows, repeatedly exploited and brutally abused by those who took money from others to jeer and witness this unfortunate man’s plight as a total outcast of society.  Due to Merrick’s medical condition, he was in severe pain also and due to breathing problems was unable to lie down to sleep.  It is in many ways a tale encompassing all of the hypocritical Victorian morals most prevalent at that time, but for the strength and hope of Merrick’s character.  It should make you weep with humility and compassion.

John Hurt, award-winning actor plays John Merrick in ‘The Elephant Man‘,  having undergone hours in make-up sessions to replicate the severe disfigurement suffered by Merrick.  Hurt manages to convey dignity and sensitivity in his portrayal.  Anthony Hopkins, in the role of Dr Frederick Treves, plays a kindly soul who rescues Merrick from his appearances in these appalling freak shows.

Anthony Hopkins, in the role of Dr Frederick Treves

Anthony Hopkins, in the role of Dr Frederick Treves

Treves introduces Merrick to London society and persuades a famous actress, Mrs Kendal (Anne Bancroft) to visit Merrick, who becomes the ‘darling’ of London society, after newspapers printed articles on John Merrick. Merrick is proud of his letters and visits from society folk.  Treves soon realizes that Merrick has not long to live and introduces him to his wife (Hannah Gordon) having forewarned her of Merrick’s shocking appearance.  Treves and his wife take Merrick out to the theatre one night, where Mrs Kendal dedicates her performance to Merrick.  This scene is a delight to watch, as the refinement of Merrick’s character is once again captured by Hurt in his excellent performance.  Merrick’s delight that evening was beyond his wildest dreams and proved too much in the end for this delicate soul.  A powerful, moving film which will leave its’ mark long after the credits have stopped rolling.

There are several books about the true story of  Joseph Carey Merrick (5 August 1862 – 11 April 1890) an Englishman who became known as “The Elephant Man” because of his physical appearance, one of which was written by Dr Frederick Treves, ‘The Elephant Man and other Reminiscences’.  You can purchase DVDs and books here and search for any movie with Anthony Hopkins in our store.

John Merrick quote from the movie “I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!”

The elephant man with Dr Treves

The elephant man with Dr Treves