i kept asking myself what the film was really trying to say about the human condition as reflected by john merrick, and i kept drawing blanks. the film's philosophy is this shallow: (1)wow, the elephant man sure looked hideous, and (2)gosh, isn't it wonderful how he kept on in spite of everything? this last is in spite of a real possibility that john merrick's death at twenty-seven might have been suicide.
the film's technical credits are adequate. john hurt is very good as merrick, somehow projecting a humanity past the disfiguring makeup, and anthony hopkins is correctly aloof and yet venal as the doctor. the direction, by david (eraserhead) lynch, is competent, although he gives us an inexcusable opening scene in which merrick's mother is trampled or scared by elephants or raped (who knows?) and an equally idiotic closing scene in which merrick becomes the star child from 2001, or something.
inexcusable and idiotic!! very pronounced :)
ebert calls out the only significant lynchian elements of the film, justifiably in this case, in this least lynchian of his films.
john hurt's good, of course.