The Elephant Man isn’t a feel-good movie. I’ve never seen a David Lynch film before, but I had expectations. I understood him to be rather surreal, and perhaps a little bleak. My suspicions were confirmed in The Elephant Man.
It was incredibly bleak, with a fair share of disturbing and claustrophobic moments. And apparently, that was supposed to make me cry. I can get behind the message of The Elephant Man – it’s what’s inside that counts, nothing truly dies, if you’re a good person you’ll live forever. It’s probably the absolute purest display of that message, but I’ve been exposed to it so many times that it’s lost its potency.
To Lynch’s credit, for two hours, I felt trapped – even in the film’s most redeemingly upbeat moments, I could never really breathe a sigh of relief. Not from sympathy or regret (it’s obviously hard watching people treat a person badly for their physical experience), but because, no matter the positive experiences of John Merrick’s life… Within the context of the film, he’s still a freak. Not to sound insensitive, but: After all the joyful memories, he’s still dying.
I’m really not sure where I weigh in on The Elephant Man. I can appreciate its merits, but I didn’t enjoy it. It’s a great film, but I can’t imagine a time I would want to watch it again. It didn’t spark the emotional reaction I was promised. As to its position in the Top 250, I’m apathetic.