Watched Sep 08, 2012
Silent J’s review:
This was recommended to me by Dirk Hasselman and man...wow.
Going into this, I knew very little about it. I didn't even know it was directed by David Lynch, which as odd as it may sound this could very well be his most accesible film. All I knew was that it was about some man who looked like an elephant, or was an elephant; I wasn't sure going in. In either case, I went in with no expectations. Coming out, it's one of the best films I've ever seen.
The story basically asks the question: What does it mean to be beautiful? Is beauty internal or external? If it's external then is there a way for us to look at what's inside a person? If someone looks monstrous, how does one truly look at the man behind the monster? These issues are confronted in such a simple yet effective matter that my eyes were glued to the screen from beginning to end. What really made the subject matter powerful was just the heartbreaking performance from John Hurt in the title role, or John Merrick in less insulting terms. He's completely transformed in this film. Never mind how genuine and amazing the makeup looks. It's all the emotion Hurt is able to generate under the makeup that is truly impressive. You also get fantastic performances from the likes of Anthony Hopkins and John Gielgud just to name a few, but it's John Hurt who pulls off one of the greatest performances I've ever seen on film. He's just phenomenal.
The visuals are just as impressive as the story. Even in his sophomore effort, David Lynch does a stunning job with the camera with very impressive camera shots and surreal images. While not "weird" like his later films, but it's kinda like a nightmare within reality, if that makes any sense. What I mean is that it's like reality that is a nightmare for John who must live with his disfigurement and suffer ridicule, shame, and humiliation from those around him. It's just as hard for him to live in suffering as it is for the audience to watch him suffer. Again, Lynch provides some amazing visuals but not as amazing as a job he does telling such a strong story that really resonated.
Again, thanks a whole lot Dirk for introducing me to a film that I will probably be seeing a lot of in the future. It's shocking. It's heartbreaking. It's beautiful. It's ugly. It's unforgettable. It's fascinating. It's powerful. It's, well, The Elephant Man.