David Lynch directs John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins and Freddie Jones in this adaptation of the true tale of hideously deformed Joseph Merrick, who went from freak show attraction to the toast of Victorian London society.
An unlikely but perfect marriage of source material and maverick director. Lynch more than understands how to tell a tale of beautiful souls and horrific, monochrome industrial cruelty. His controlled flourishes of surrealism dirty up the inherent mawkish nature of Merrick’s real life misfortunes. There’s no denying this a calculating tear jerker but one assembled with such alternative sensibilities it can appeal to even the most coldly, intellectual of viewers. Hurt’s iconic performance bleeds out from within thick layers of impressive make up and prosthetics, it is a genuine marvel of timidity and pleasure in discovery. You live the fear and concern for this gentle man at risk in a world containing only slithers of understanding and care. Freddie Jones also affects as the boo-hiss villain – a petulant owner of a man’s life horrified at how his survival is aligned to the freak he detests once he is bereft of him. A more uniquely universal story (well told) you’ll struggle to find.