08 January 2012

Elephant Man

Actors: John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Hanna Gordon, John Gielgud, Anne Bancroft, Michael Elphick.
Director: David Lynch

First time I've seen this film. Tremendous. Of course I know the story, but I had never watched the whole film.

What surprised me was that it was filmed in the early 1980s - it has a much older feel to it. I find that most 'historic' films say something about the time they are filmed. Either by a reference to a current issue, or a hairstyle, a fashion - something. This film did not do that. A very pleasant change.

Set in Victorian London around 1880s David Lynch was lucky to find that London docklands still looked pretty much the same as it had a century earlier. It seems it was perfectly timed as most of the locations were cleared for the dockland regeneration shortly after filming was complete.

Glad I didn't see it back in 80s, pleased to have waited. Back in the 80s it would have frightened me, I was a bit of a scaredy-cat back then.

After watching the extras on the DVD, and hearing the interview John Hurt gave, it struck me there are similarities between this and Jaws (which I watched over the Christmas break). John was discussing with the make-up, artist about how he should look as John Merrick, and saying "take your time, take your time - don't get me ready too soon." He didn't think the viewer should see what John Merrick looks like until much later in the film. This was the same for the reveal on the shark in Jaws. It is not until you are a long way into the film do you see the shark. The suspense gives the film more power. Partly this was due to the shark not working correctly once it was put into salt water. But even though this was a technical issue it meant the film was shot around not seeing the threat and, like the Elephant Man, the build up to the reveal and the suspense that builds up in the viewer are what makes these films work and has made them the tremendous successes that they are.

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