The 80’s was a great time for movies. It was a pivotal moment for directors to really show off their creative side with the special effects they had to budget. I’m really fond of the era for creating some of the most amazing movies that people still talk about and remember.
As a late child of the 80s, I grew up watching more 90’s animated tv shows and movies but there were the movies of the 80s that I watched as a teenager which stuck in my memory for being so great.
In honour of such classic movies I’ve been able to watch (earlier or recently ), I thought I would make a series (that 80’s movie) of my favourite movies that stand the test of time and i hope you find them interesting.
What makes us different? Maybe our way of thinking, the skills we have and then ofcourse our physical appearance. Joseph Merrick, who often incorrectly called John Merrick ( 5 August 1862-11 April 1890) was more than different with his severe appearance that caused his face and body to be mutated in some form. His skeleton is displaced at the Royal London Hospital (where i was born).
This partially autobiographal adaptation bares plenty of room for empathy portrayed by the brilliant John Hurt who plays the character of John Merrick. Ofcourse the real events were much harsher for him to bear and nothing can justify that but this portrayal does well to make us witness a portion of what he may have been subjected to go through.
John Merrick is seen to be locked up in a circus in the East End of London by a man named Bytes who profits from showcasing John on display and treats him badly. “he’s a freak, where else should he live”.
A surgeon by the name of Frederick Treves finds Merrick and takes him to the London Hospital to take care of him. With some agitated time, he begins to speak much fluently when he recites passages from the bible. Though the nurses and people at the place are frightened by his nature, they treat him with kindness but caution.
He is even greeted by the actress Madge Kendal, who introduces him to shakespeare and gives him a portrait of herself for his pleasure. Merrick thanks her “i shall place it in honour next to my mothers”. who was beautiful and had the face of an angel.
Anthony Hopkins plays the surgeon so well and his kind mannerism is beautifully portrayed. He brings him clothes and a gift, that for the first time in a long time Merrick is overjoyed with tears. Many moments like these are reflected which made me smile (with few small tears to shed).
At afternoon tea, Merrick wears the gifted suit and joins Frederick at his home and meets his wife which makes him overjoyed to be in her company as he cries “I’m not used to being greeted by such a beautiful woman”.
Merrick begins to slowly grasp the little part of how to survive in such a prejudice community, especially in the 19th century, as for a man with such incredible difficulty, he strived to live with such dignity, full of compassion. A man so sophisticated he would greet anyone with the utmost respect.
But not everyone felt the same way and showed him compasion which is the heartbreak of this movie and a powerful one at that, however as the movie progresses, it makes you want to feel less tears and pity, as my empathy was more of feeling proud of Merrick as he gained to overcome some of his fear of being traumatised for many years in a place he tried to call his home and belong in the world although sadness of such a case is inevitable.
Throughout the movie we experience how Merrick feels but not really ever knowing what he went through. He is a man of intelligence found to be insulted, huniliated and abused by society who find him interesting and something to talk about. Merrick himself knows this well enough saying”they are frightened by what they don’t understand”.
Frederick himself questions the morality of taking care of someone with such an incurable disease as Merrick is met by people of high class, and the meet and greet of people who pass to catch a glimpse of him. “am i a good man or a bad man? …I’ve made him all curious again “.
It is an unsettling movie but which Lynch movie isn’t. To say this is one of my favourites is contradictory as i hated how he was treated and it can be a difficult watch , but Lynch did a very good job at making this as profolic and visually endearing for us to understand something which we simply can’t .
Just when you begin to feel some hope for Merrick, it is met with fear of the ugly side of those people who have no compassion and far less a man and human than Merrick ever was, as he reminds us that “i am not an elephant! I am not an animal! i am a human being! i..am..a..man!
Credits: Directed by David Lynch. Based on The Elephant Man and other Reminiscences by Frederick Treves. The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu.
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, Freddie Jones, Sir John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller.
Music by John Morris
(Other honourable mentions) :
The Shining (1980) By Stanley Kubrick
Superman 2 (1980) By Richard Donner and Richard Lester