The elephant man is my favourite movie i most have seen it at least 20 times. I can still recollect the firsts time I watched this seminal piece of cinematic brilliance that a brilliant depiction of the human condition. I was 14 years old feeling this socially awkward alienated teenager who was suffering the formative symptoms of body dysmorphia. My condition has now I’m a fully grown adult metastasised into a socially debilitating disorder that effects my self esteem that leaves me crippled with anxiety I’m unable to cultivate romantic relationships all because of this disorder.
When I first watched the elephant man this glorious sentimental masterpiece it resonated deeply with the themes of alienation and being outcasted by mainstream society. The man John merrick a victim of a incredibly rare congenital disorder that leaves him horribly disfigured and basically disabled. The way he’s discarded cast out is how i feel leaving with many various mental illnesses the depression the social anxiety the body dysmorphia that have grown. John merricks hideous physical appearance is how i see myself when I glimpse into the rare i don’t see a normal person i see a grotesque freak. My disorder precludes from ever venturing outside except when I’m forced to by social convention or to attend my university lectures. When i am outside i become anxious paranoid feeling everyone look on horror at this gollum creature in human clothes. I have to plaster my face in makeup or simply obscure my face by hearing a hoodie or large sunglasses. In public or in the sanctum of my home glaring into the mirror is a horrifying experience that i eschew until it’s absolutely necessary. In the film when john is looks into a mirror and sees his deformed ugly face that scene brings me to tears. His consternated reaction as he sees himself looks into the window of his soul is what i experience when I see myself in bathroom mirrors when i go to my hair salon.
Many scenes in this film which is imprinted on my consciousness provoke a powerful reaction in the depths of my mind. One of the most enduring scenes is the diner scene when John attends a dinner with his protector his friend the DR. Treves. He’s made to feel normal for the first time in his short adult life. He wears a three piece suit looks for the first time as a respectable gentlemen and is welcomed into their home as a equal treated with humanity. That feeling of being accepted of needing validation is what i desire in that scene it moves me profoundly. The best moment is though when John shows his guests a photograph of his estranged mother. Rather than being a ugly homely women devoid of beauty its a image of a angelic women. Then John talks about losing his mother how he most of been a tremendous disappointment to his mum. When I initially watch the elephant man it had been less than a year since my mums tragic suicide. That scene i watched alone was a tear inducing powerful moment that elucidated my grief. That spoke to me of the sadness of losing a parent the pain the feeling I Of worthlessness. Every time i watch that scene and John is talking about his mother expressing his sadness i am transformed into a blubbering mess. The pain of my mums suicide has never subsided i never divulged my pain to anybody kept the pain hidden kept it suppressed. In that brief moment i experience a cathartic release of the pent up grief.
There are numerous other scenes that express the pathos of isolation of being cast out into the wilderness. To never have love to be denied the euphoric beauty of a intimate relationship with the sex the companionship the emotional elation of a long term enduring love affair. All these things i am precluded from ever experiencing due to my socially impeding disorder. The scene where John is inquiring to Dr. Treves whether he can be cured of his rare disease the doctor politely says no. Then John looks forlornly into a painting of a man sleeping on a bed and almost despairingly wishes he could sleep like a normal person. To me that scene is a powerful encapsulation of whats its like to be afflicted with a crippling mental disorder that you’ll be cured from. I want to sleep like a normal person a potent metaphor of the desire to be normal to have friends to function in society to be remedied of your mental illness. I believe any depressed person anybody suffering from a pathological psychological condition will be moved to a tears after witnessing that scene. When i watch it i cry profusely usually i have to pause the movie from the cascade of tears that are flowing down my ashen face.
The ending of the elephant man when he accept his fate when he decides to kill himself by literally sleeping as a normal person on his back. This act kills him cutting of oxygen to his his lungs chocking him John cant sleep like a normal person due to the size of his deformed head and the mutations on his chest. He has to sleep sitting up put laying down is suicidal act but a glorious act of defiance to be a normal to experience a semblance of normality. To sleep in a bed laying horizontal as his last act. By the end I’m crying uncontrollably as i watch the ethereal ending as John floats into the cosmos as his soul floats into heaven as finds liberation from the shackles of his gnarled body. A lone female voice eloquently says nothing ever dies. I’m shacking by now as the credits roll and its a compelling ending of being stricken with a body that society is repugnant.
The film acts as a potent analogy of mental illness or isolation. The way the character is treated how he’s looked upon as a oddity a freak how he’s forced to live sequestrated from society having no socially life. How the elephant man appears with his hideous visage is how i view myself. Being tortured by self loathing finding it unfathomable that anybody would find me physically attractive. That my personality is as deformed as the elephant mans ravaged body. The scars the mutations are a mirror into the darkness that lurks in my damaged psyche. This film i watch when I’m low when i need a 2 hour piece of poignant drama. I weep throughout it makes feel less alone in this vast godless universe