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DVD/Blu Ray: The Elephant Man | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu Ray: The Elephant Man

DVD/Blu Ray: The Elephant Man

A David Lynch movie as good as any

Merrick- the Elephant Man (John Hurt) and Dr Treves (Anthony Hopkins)

David Lynch’s second feature, his only period movie, is as good as anything else he has ever done, building on the claustrophobia of his first, Eraserhead (1977)  The story of Joseph Merrick, born in Victorian times with the most terrible physical deformation, rescued from a humiliating life as a carnival attraction by kind Dr Treves provides an opportunity for Lynch to explore themes at the core of his work: the purity of innocence and the terror of evil.

David Lynch’s second feature, his only period movie, is as good as anything else he has ever done, building on the claustrophobia of his first, Eraserhead (1977)  The story of Joseph Merrick, born in Victorian times with the most terrible physical deformation, rescued from a humiliating life as a carnival attraction by kind Dr Treves provides an opportunity for Lynch to explore themes at the core of his work: the purity of innocence and the terror of evil.

The cinematography, by Freddie Francis, creates a gloom and a vision of London’s dangerous streets that is reminiscent of German expressionist cinema. John Hurt gives one of his greatest performances as the Elephant Man, as much as for his perfectly-mannered body language as for the way he speaks his lines – a triumph in the evocation of vulnerability, something the great actor could do very well. Anthony Hopkins plays the doctor, whose scientific curiosity and professional ambition are gradually worn away by Merrick’s abject condition and almost otherworldly kindness.  Freddie Jones gives a startling performance as the man who makes money from his ‘monster’ in the fairground, but whose cruel exploitation is perversely charged with erotic energy. Michael Elphick, as the night porter in the hospital where the doctor initially welcomes Merrick, brings to the character a touch of unthinking yet horrific sadism that prefigures Dennis Hopper’s unforgettable performance as the odious Frank Booth in Blue Velvet (1986).

The Elephant Man is a deeply touching film, more so than anything else that followed, with Lynch later plunging deep into the darker regions of the human psyche. The glory of this film lies in the emotionally rich territory that lies between kindness or love on the one hand and cruelty on the other. For any Lynch fan who doesn’t know this film it's an absolute must, an essential work, not an early or immature experiment.

The 4K restoration does justice to the movie, and this reissue is more than usually rich in fascinating bonuses, including several interviews with Lynch, a BFI Q&A with producer Jonathan Sanger and background on the real ‘elephant man’ that inspired the film’s story.

The Elephant Man is a deeply touching film, more so than anything else that followed

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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