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Greatest Written Films - The Elephant Man
The Elephant Man (1980)
A beast is to be seen at a freak show in 19th century London. The Elephant Man. A chance encounter with a London surgeon, Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) reveals that the freak is in fact an intelligent young man, merely terribly disfigured. But these aren't enlightened times.
The real Elephant Man.
Joseph Merrick was a real person and the film resembles his life as it was well documented at the time. Treves wrote a book about his experience and there are photographs and letters surviving from Merrick himself. There are some discrepancies but they are put aside to the betterment of the script.
Brilliantly directed by David Lynch, with a script he co wrote with Christopher De Vore and Eric Bergren, the film is as delicate and brutal as the unfortunate life of Joseph Merrick (called John Merrick in the film) who is played to perfection by John Hurt, in one of his best roles.
Shot in glorious black and white by acclaimed Cinematographer Freddie Francis, which enhances the mood of the dark, smoky Victorian streets. From the editing through to the music, I daresay it is one of Lynch's most complete films. A little known fact is that it was produced by Mel Brooks, whose name was not attached as he didn't want audiences thinking it was a comedy.
The tale is a tragic one. It demonstrates the savage greed that haunts the human soul as well as a refined kindness, found with irony, in the one they call the Freak. One of cinemas great true story's.
More information about the real Joseph Merrick.
More information about the film.
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Coming soon: A change of pace in The Cow and the Sow,
and we've all worked with one of these types in The Workplace Glasshouse.