The Elephant Man

The Elephant Man (1980) portrays the story of Joseph Merrick, known as John Merrick in the film.

A heartbreaking tale of a severely disfigured man from birth, demonstrating his struggle through life as he is abused and wildly ridiculed. Only a handful of individuals are able to give him some joy in his short life.

The film itself carries an initial sense of foreboding as we are lured into the sight of John Merrick, later becoming distinctly sympathetic as we come to learn and care for Merrick himself. His shy and quiet kindness only heightens the sense of sorrow and sympathy as it is clear that he does not deserve the misfortune bestown upon him. John Hurt does a brilliant role in capturing this, as well as Anthony Hopkins who is later questions his own actions as to whether they have done the right thing or simply perpetuated the notions of a freak show but on a grander scale.

A quick search through Google images reveals a wide number of shocking cases similar to The Elephant Man even to this day, with an example being of Huang Chuncai. I have provided a link though be warned, its not for the faint hearted.

As such, The Elephant Man demonstrates the effects on society the disfigurement of an integral part of our identity, the face, can have. When this is taken away, we feel uncomfortable being confronted by the lack of a tangible identity to grasp on to, a concept explored by artists such as Aziz Cucher in the obliteration of the face and identity.

Overall, a good yet sorrowful tale that will leave you in quiet sympathy for one known only as 'The Elephant Man'.


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