The Elephant man

the-elephant-man-posterAmerican biography from 1980
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft
Director: David Lynch
Writers: Ashley Montagu, David Lynch, Frederick Treves, Eric Bergren, Christopher De Vore
Bechdel test: Fail


A surgeon in Victorian London discovers a man being exhibited as “The elephant man”. Through various interactions this surgeon, Frederick Treves, gets to know the severely deformed John Merrick. Treves discovered that Merrick, who has until now been kept as an exhibit, is a well educated and kind man. Treves tries to give Merrick a life worth living.


I have not seen this movie before, and was surprised at how different it was from what I expected from a movie by David Lynch. (“Twin Peaks” is a favorite of mine.) The surreal and unexpected elements weren’t there, and the sometimes slower scenes that focus on minor events in daily life were just boring in this movie. In for instance “Twin Peaks” I found the little stops at the diner in the morning entertaining, while in “The elephant man” I struggled to keep my attention on the screen at times. However, I was also quite moved during other parts.

“The elephant man did not already have the Bechdel test performed on the Bechdel site, so I attempted to see if the movie would pass. There are a few scenes with more than one woman, and there are even a few scenes where both women are named, but they keep talking about men. There is one scene where I am uncertain if the content counts as being “something other than a man”. It is the matron and a nurse is talking in front of a mirror. The nurse says something to the effect of “It was nice of Mrs. Kendall to lend me this dress for going to the theater. Does she know [what is happening to Merrick]?”

The first part is about something other than a man, but it is immediately followed by talk of a man, so is that enough?

I am open to suggestions, but for now I failed the movie.


The acting was amazing, and specially John Hurt as John Merrick was convincing. The mixture of naivety and life experience was both fascinating and strange.

The story is based on the life of Joseph Merrick who lived in Victorian London, and had a quite similar life story to the John Merrick in the movie. Weather his personality or that of his surgeon savior was anything like depicted is uncertain.

The story in “The elephant man” is good and entertaining, but a little to shallow to keep my attention for a whole movie.

The choice to make the movie black and white puzzles me. This part of the Victorian era, approximately 1886 to 1890, it not a time where this photography could have been made. It is probably an attempt at making the movie seem closer to the time this story happened, and maybe put a focus on the real life of Joseph Merrick, but I don’t think it succeeds. It just seems like a cheap way of making the sets and costumes.


I will probably not watch this movie again. I would not mind terribly if someone else put it on, but I would not search it out.


I would not recommend “The elephant man” unless someone is particularly interested in this side of Victorian England.

Over to you

If you’ve recently seen “The Elephant man” or you’re watching along with my year of movies, please leave a comment below with your thoughts on the movie or note down your opinion somewhere else.

15 movies down. 350 to go.

If you want to get “The Elephant man” from Amazon, here is a link for that. They probably have the movie many other places too. Maybe it’s already on your shelf?

Tomorrow’s movie is “Hell or high water“. Get some more information about this movie and the other movies on my watch list this week on the upcoming movies page. If you’re new to this site and are wondering why I’m watching a movie every day for a year, read more about my experiment.

Until next time; live long and prosper.

One thought on “The Elephant man

  1. Pingback: Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. | Dreamberry

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