The Elephant Man (1980)

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I  am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!

David Lynch directs this biographical film about Joseph Merrick, the severely disabled man in the 19th century. Dr Fredrick Treves (Antony Hopkins) discovers Merrick (John Hurt) at a freak show and sends him to hospital for examinations. Merrick draws attention because of the largeness of his skull which means that he is forced to sleep with his head on his knees; if he lies down he would asphyxiate.

Merrick is passed from person to person and after stunning everyone by reciting the 23rd psalm he spends his time in tasks such as drawing and painting. Word of Merrick reaches Queen Victoria’s daughter in law Alexandra who arranges for all his hospital treatment to be paid for, but regardless of this, he is still taunted.

Near the very end of the film it is revealed he is dying from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The ending shot of Merrick lying down and sleeping upright says it all and leaves a lump in your throat.

I had only seen this film all the way through  a while back after being convinced by my sisters to watch it. Overall, a brilliant piece of somewhat bizarre yet moving cinema with a great cast. It just goes to show that you cannot judge a book by its cover as is show through the example of Merrick who, despite his intelligence and kindness was judged for his deformity and branded a freak.

My life is full because I know I am loved.

My rating: 4.5/5

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