Critic Reviews



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Hurt is brilliant as Merrick, projecting in his anguished eyes and mournful body language a humanity past the makeup that embodies so convincingly the pain of Merrick, the original elephant man, whose rare disease was exploited by the people running a Victorian freak show.
This is a tale of redemption and transcendence, of the hunchback of London Hospital, of the noble phantom who want to go to the opera, of Beauty and the Beast. In Treves' account, though, the Beast was a Beauty. In Lynch's hands, so is this film.
Time Out
A marvelous movie, shot in stunning black-and-white by Freddie Francis.
Hurt gives a tour de force performance, masterfully conveying emotions while unable to use his face or even much of his voice.
Hopkins is splendid in a subtly nuanced portrayal of a man torn between humanitarianism and qualms that his motives in introducing the Elephant Man to society are no better than those of the brutish carny. The center-piece of the film, however, is the virtuoso performance by the almost unrecognizable John Hurt.
The New Yorker
A very pleasurable surprise. Lighted by Freddie Francis, this film is perhaps the most beautiful example of black-and-white cinematography in about 15 years.
Lynch’s powerful depiction of Merrick (played by John Hurt) moves a viewer from revulsion and fear to empathy and tenderness.
If you thought the sweetness of The Straight Story was unprecedented in Lynch’s work, look again at this earlier true-life tale of odd, everyday heroism.
I kept asking myself what the film was really trying to say about the human condition as reflected by John Merrick, and I kept drawing blanks. The film's philosophy is this shallow: (1)Wow, the Elephant Man sure looked hideous, and (2)gosh, isn't it wonderful how he kept on in spite of everything?
Despite the rich associations, the film finally makes little more of its central figure, a hideously deformed young man, than an object of pity.

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