The Elephant Man - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Elephant Man Reviews

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½ September 23, 2017
Unflinchingly emotional, impressively restrained, and endearingly acted, David Lynch ties up his crazy side to present a deserving look at a socially monumental shift in human nature.
August 19, 2017
Incredibly distressing.
½ July 21, 2017
The combination of sympathy and cruelty is incredibly moving.
June 30, 2017
Just depressing. A story so strange and evil and sad that even David Lynch just told it straight.
June 13, 2017
This is one of Lynch's finest works, and his most lucid.
June 5, 2017
One of the best movies I ever watched. You must watch this movie. I wish everyone would watch it. Learn from it.
May 25, 2017
John's biopic narration is sad, incapacitating, tender and emotional, and despite the elegant visuals that are implemented to recreate a dark atmosphere that makes a trip back in time, the sentimentality is so deep that the rest is shaken carelessly. 64/100
April 6, 2017
The best movie about humanity ever made. It should be mandatory watching for everyone when they are 10 years old and a part of the educational curriculum. It illuminates man at his best and worst all in the same light. An extraordinary masterpiece even by today's standards.
April 4, 2017
David Lynch is a genius when it comes to the weird and absurd. He puts a lot of imagination into his films, and its interesting to see what he can do in each of them. Eraserhead was the 1st film that I saw from him. Over time, it grew on me to an extent to be my 4th favorite film of all time (currently). The Elephant Man was the 2nd film I watched from him. Even though its story is more grounded, it still manages to keep Lynch's absurdity feeling present found in most of his filmography.

A Victorian surgeon named Frederick Treves rescues a horribly disfigured man named Joseph Merrick who's mistreated, and works as a side-show freak for a living. Behind his disturbing appearance is an intelligent person who Frederick begins to appreciate as they continue to spend more time together.

Often, when movies contain bleak plots like this film or attempt to make the viewer feel sadness throughout them, it's very easy for them to be crippled by feeling overly emotionally manipulative. This can also easily hinder the viewer's immersion with the film their watching. For that reason, it seemed unlikely that this film would be able to succeed concerning the hopelessness of its plot. Despite that, however, Lynch was able to make one of the saddest films I've ever seen without making it feel overly sentimental or cheesy whatsoever. By firmly sticking to the facts of the true story this was based on, he did all that was required for him to do in order to make this film into a powerful experience. Also, we got to know more about John Merrick throughout the film as Lynch did a good job at developing his sensitivity and intelligence. This proved to be a highly powerful characteristic which made the film stand out so well. It makes many other feel-good films crumble into dust when compared to this one.

The acting is another high point to the film. John Hurt as Joseph Merrick gave an amazing performance. Underneath all of the disturbing makeup, he is able to project humanity. Also, his voice was very muffled, like one would expect. Despite that, however, his voice was still understandable, and I was able to make out his voice without having to try too hard to listen or replay a line of dialogue. He stole the show. Also, Anthony Hopkins as Frederick Treves gave a great performance as well. He was able to convincingly play a doctor trying to help Merrick without ever sounding bland. Both of them did pretty good as the 2 main roles. I had no glaring issues with the rest of the cast.

The visuals were pretty good. Since the movie was set in the last 1800's, the black and white seemed fitting, and it made sense for a movie set over 100 years ago to have black and white. Also, the make-up on John Hurt looked gross and realistic. To make it, Lynch looked at different photographs of the real Joseph Merrick. Also, after this film wasn't recognized at the Academy awards for its make-up effects, tons of people wrote angry letters to them, demanding them to give the film an award for Lynch's recreation of Joseph Merrick. They didn't do it, but they did create a new award called "Best Makeup" with "An American Werewolf in London" being the first to receive it. Since the effects inspired all of that to happen, I'd say that it did something right. Also, because of the black and white, the disturbing and realistic make-up effects on John Hurt managed to look gross without distracting me from the movie.

When it comes to historical accuracy, this film isn't the most accurate film out there. It had several inaccuracies. Firstly, the events from the films famous railway station scene happened before Merrick stayed at the hospital. Secondly, the whole kidnapping sub-plot never happened. Merrick went to Europe on his own accords. Mr. Bytes, the original cruel owner of Joseph Merrick, never existed. Bytes was based off of Tom Norman. Thirdly, it's likely that Tom Norman was never as cruel as the movie made him out to be. Fourthly, Frederick Treves never had to rescue Joseph Merrick from Tom Norman. A few weeks after Joseph Merrick started working with Tom Norman, their exhibit was seen as 'distasteful', and it was shut down by the police. After that happened, Joseph and Tom went their separate ways. In addition, several operations were required to enable Joseph Merrick to talk. Finally, his first name was not "John". It was "Joseph".

In conclusion, I enjoyed this film. It succeeds where many feel-good films fail at. It has great acting and gross and realistic effects made even better by the black and white cinematography. This may not be the most historically accurate film out there, and it may be a bit dull in a few places near the middle, but it's still pretty good. I'm going to check out more of Lynch's films in the future. People who aren't a fan of Lynch's work tend to agree that this one and The Straight Story are his best films as they prefer his more straightforward work. I think that this was pretty good as well. It just needed some polishing in a few areas.
March 6, 2017
It's a well-made film, complete with Lynch's artistic cinematography synced with carefully articulated sounds. Both Hurt and Hopkins are an effective duo, portraying a believable friendship based (loosely) on the real life events of John Merrick during the mid/late 1800s.
Here's the problem, the film goes down the predictable, at times cliché Hollywood, route by telling an ugly duckling story instead of letting us, the audience, truly understand what made Merrick a remarkable man. All in all, it's great style marred by disappointing substance.
½ January 30, 2017
The Elephant Man finds director David Lynch at the peak of his compassion, delivering a heartbreaking biopic led by stunning performances from John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins.
January 27, 2017
An amazing, but troubling film that's still relevant in today's world of bullying.
January 5, 2017
At times it was almost too cruel and uncomfortable to bear, but ultimately it was uplifting. (First and only full viewing - In my early twenties)
½ January 4, 2017
The Elephant Man is a memorable film about human survival and a powerful commentary on human exploitation. David Lynch's relatively straight second feature finds an admirable synthesis of compassion and restraint in treating its subject, and features outstanding performances by John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins. Director David Lynch has created an eerily compelling atmosphere in recounting a hideously deformed man's perilous life in Victorian England. What we eventually see underneath this shell is not 'the study in dignity' that Ashley Montagu wrote about, but something far more poignant, a study in genteelness that somehow suppressed all rage. The greatest contribution -- apart from the central performances -- comes from Francis, whose wonderful black and white, widescreen photography lends atmosphere and clarity to the proceedings. Hopkins is splendid in a subtly nuanced portrayal of a man torn between humanitarianism and qualms that his motives in introducing the Elephant Man to society are no better than those of the brutish carny. The center-piece of the film, however, is the virtuoso performance by the almost unrecognizable John Hurt. A moving, faithful retelling of a bizarre true story. In such a setting it's no surprise that a kind of sad, desperate genteelness was once equated with human dignity.

VERDICT: "Instant Classic" - [Positively Acclaimed Reaction] Usually I give this rating to a movie that I believe is absolutely outstanding and has little to no flaws in it. Audiences, who haven't seen this film, must see it right now! (Films that are rated 4.5 or 5 stars)
December 27, 2016
A masterpiece, It is film making at its finest. A true testament to the human spirit.
½ December 23, 2016
Un hombre con una desafortunada condición física. Para documental, vale. Para personajes de una película, lo interesante tiene que ser la psicología. 5/10
½ September 29, 2016
This is perhaps 30 minutes longer than it needs to be and slightly less interesting than it could be but Lynch tells a nice, if not relatively straight forward story in a beautifully shot way.
½ September 14, 2016
A measured dose of Dickens, a gothic subject, treated to an appropriate black and white cinematography. The sentimentality constantly runs the risk of going overboard, as it would with any movie like this, but it is kept in check by the tragedy. It has no outright message, it lets the movement of human emotion do the talking. This is the last film directed by David Lynch that I had yet to see, and it is one of the best. A reminder that the director is not only a mastermind of the uncanny but of sincere sympathy. Lynch is deeply sympathetic with his character's struggles and he pushes aside self awareness with how expressing such a sympathy can be uncomfortable. It gives each of his movies, even Dune, an earnestness.

Like Twin Peaks, Elephant Man seeks to enter into a person's inner life and force them to ask the question, "Am I a good man, or a bad man?" As well as reconsider how we see each other, compared to our impression of them. To question our own motives, before showing that we can only question for so long until we simply must give in to a hope that others are sincere.

The ending was moving because John Merrick's finished cathedral is something that we all want to give the world. A message in a bottle that tells others what is really in our heart.
June 30, 2016
Greatest performance and direction of modern film in this harrowing tale of a sideshow freak.
June 1, 2016
Beautiful b&w photography. Touching story coupled with Lynch's trademark surrealism, a masterpiece.
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