#138: The Elephant Man (1980)

When and how did I watch this?

March 8th and 9th, 2016, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

I knew it was a David Lynch film, but nothing else.

What do I know about it now?

A decidedly black and white film featuring a gentleman with a grotesque visage in a society that cannot accept him, this film grips you emotionally in a way unlike others.  We feel sorry for Mr. Merrick, but we also feel incredibly hopeful for this tragic, historical figure. The doctor’s compassion for the man reminds us of how selfish and outright judgmental we can be based on appearance alone.  Yes, John Merrick is hard to look at initially — due to an incredible makeup job — but as the movie progresses, we find him noble and even attractive in ways.  Lynch juxtaposes a gentle Merrick and a vicious hospital groundskeeper to make our world seem far uglier than John’s face, a brilliant yet simple tactic for this piece of incredible cinema. Of course, the film also features odd and striking angles and effects one would expect from Lynch.

What are some themes in the film?

Compassion, beauty, hope and destiny, pride

Did this affect me personally?

One’s heart is likely made of stone if it doesn’t affect them in some way.

Why is this ranked #138?

The Lynch association helps, but really, it’s because the film grips you from start to finish, more so than its neighbors on the list.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She watched it from start to finish, and she thought it was one of the best films she’s ever seen.

Would I watch it again?

Yes indeed.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

No question.  It’s a relatively obscure title to modern audiences, and it might seem “boring” to most in the age of effects and action heroes, but it’s worth a spin.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Absolutely.  Every attribute of this film is brilliant, and it stands tall among the best of the best.

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