358. The Elephant Man

Movie: The Elephant Man

Release Date: October 10, 1980

Director: David Lynch

Starring: John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller.

Tag Lines: “I am not an animal! I am a human being! I…am…a man!”

Relevance: This movie flew under my radar for the most part until at least the late 1980’s. My mom was not a fan of this type of movie (She viewed it more as horror and at the time we were more of ‘A Coal Miner’s Daughter’ kind of household.) ), but I was definitely aware of it as it was nominated for eight Academy Awards. I also knew who Joseph Merrick was and heard and understood all of the pop culture references referring to him and the movie. (There were many “I am not an animal” quotes flying around at the time. ) However, I didn’t watch it in full until 1990 when David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ TV series premiered, although I did catch bits and pieces of it when it was showing on HBO in the ’80’s.

I very much enjoyed the quirkiness of ‘Twin Peaks’ and because of that I started watching a lot of David Lynch’s past films. I do appreciate surrealism in art forms, but I will say that many of his films were way out there, even for me. I appreciated the artistry, film-making techniques and overall moods he was able to create with his films, but I was never really blown away until I watched ‘The Elephant Man.’ Although filmed in black an white and definitely containing a few David Lynch “moments,” it was more mainstream for my young brain at the time to accept. I remember being captivated by both John Hurt’s and Anthony Hopkins’ performances. The film’s themes of abandonment, loneliness, being ostracized by society and being or at least “feeling like” a freak have always resonated with me.

Today’s Thoughts: Watching ‘The Elephant Man’ today, it is just as I remember it. Dark, brooding and filled with melancholy. I still appreciate the performances, especially that of Anthony Hopkins. (He was so young!) That dramatic turn towards the camera at the beginning of the film to introduce his character is a tad over the top but at the same time all sorts of perfect. And the close-up on his face and that single tear-drop from his eye when he firsts sees Joseph Merrick is simply gorgeous.

Watching this again today makes me want to revisit other David Lynch films. Films like ‘Dune’ (which is probably my next favorite film of his), ‘Eraserhead,’ ‘Blue Velvet,’ ‘Wild at Heart’ and ‘Mulholland Drive’ may get a better appreciation now that I am older. This is the only Lynch film on this particular list, so that may not happen until 2021.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, John Hurt (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, John Hurt (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Christopher De Vore, Eric Bergen, David Lynch (nomination), Academy Award for Best Art Direction/Set Direction, Stuart Craig, Robert Cartwright, Hugh Scaife (nomination), Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Patricia Norris (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Anne V. Coates (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, John Morris (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director, David Lynch (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, John Hurt (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, Eric Bergren, Christopher De Vore (nomination), BAFTA for Best Film (winner), BAFTA for Best Actor, John Hurt (winner), BAFTA for Best Production Design/Art Direction, Stuart Craig (winner), BAFTA for Best Cinematography, Freddie Francis (nomination), BAFTA for Best Direction, David Lynch (nomination, BAFTA for Best Editing, Anne V. Coates (nomination), BAFTA for Best Screenplay, Christopher De Vore, Eric Bergren, David Lynch (nomination), Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, David Lynch (nomination), National Board of Review for Top Ten Films (winner), National Society of Film Critics Awards for Best Cinematography, Freddie Francis (nomination), Writers Guild of America for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium, Christopher De Vore, Eric Bergren, David Lynch (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, DVD availability.

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