The Elephant Man, My Favourite Film That Was Based on a True Life Story
Thinking about the above question, which was asked in the HubPages.com forums, set me thinking. Although I have seen many such films over the years one sprang instantly to my mind.
The film in question is The Elephant Man and is based on the life of Joseph Merrick. The lead role is played by John Hurt and the character in the movie is called John Merrick.
This film is not new but it made such a lasting impression on me, when I first saw it back in the early 80s, that I still find it inspirational.
The movie The Elephant Man was released in 1980. It was filmed in black and white which added to its atmospheric and authentic style.
The lead role was played by John Hurt but the cast was full of notable actors. Sir Anthony Hopkins in the days pre his knighthood, played the kindly Doctor who offered hope to Merrick. The Elephant Man was directed by David Lynch and the cast included Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, Michael Elphick, Hannah Gordon, Wendy Hiller, Lesley Dunlop, Patricia Hodge, Pauline Quirke and many more.
John Merrick is terribly deformed. As he has grown from a boy to a man these deformities have worsened. He lives a pathetic life hidden from the staring eyes of other people.
Set in Victorian England Joseph Merrick struggles to survive.
The real Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, is thought to have suffered from a rare bone disease called Proteus Syndrome, which even today is incurable. Much as some people are very cruel these days, on the whole people's attitudes have improved. Back in England in the 1800s physical and or mental impairment was often ridiculed. With little in the way of Social Services support or financial help Joseph must have suffered greatly.
The Elephant Man manages to evoke many feelings such as empathy, sadness, pity and admiration. Yes, this is partially down to the admirable cast and director but, so much is simply because this true story is inspirational.
Treat abominably at times Merrick ends up under the wing of kindly Doctor Treves, played by Anthony Hopkins. As his life changes Merrick is feted by the high society of London and becomes friends with English Royalty.
I have written only briefly about the substance of this movie, so as not to spoil your viewing experience.
The film is an emotional roller-coaster and, as you can imagine, shows many acts of cruelty against Mr Merrick. Living a reclusive life Mr Merrick struggles to simply survive.
However it is widely reported that, as in the film, the Elephant Man remained positive and upbeat whenever possible. He was what is widely termed a character.
Watching this film for the first time is a moving experience. The acting and make-up are so very good that the film soon draws you in. Imagining what it must have been like to live with such disfigurements and pain is hard to understand these days. Even simple medication was very basic back then.
Why is this my favourite film based on a true story?
Out of all the films that fit into this category this movie has everything for me. It is beautifully filmed and directed, is atmospheric, has a great cast who all play their parts to perfection and tells the tale of one man who has received such a poor deal of life's hand but yet maintains a quiet dignity throughout his torments. Among the sadness of this film there is humour and hope.
Is there any wonder that, more than a hundred years later, the story of the real Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, continues to amaze and inspire people around the world?