Director David Lynch has created an eerily compelling atmosphere in recounting a hideously deformed man’s perilous life in Victorian England.
Screenplay was based on two books about the real-life Elephant Man, one [The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences] written by his protector, Sir Frederick Treves, played in the film by Anthony Hopkins [and the other, The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu].
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.
Like Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Elephant Man gradually reveals suppressed depths of humanity.
Lynch commendably avoids summoning up feelings of disgust.
1980: Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (John Hurt), Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, Art Direction, Editing, Original Score