The Man from Earth — movie review — screener!
Posted on May 28, 2007 by Kris Nelson
If a friend you’ve known for 10 years suddenly made plans to leave town without saying goodbye, wouldn’t you be a little alarmed? If he was leaving a new promotion, a budding relationship, a slew of colleagues and comrades, wouldn’t you be a teensy bit suspicious? What if he told you he was 14,000 years old? Well, The Man from Earth is a tale about such a man who appears to be about 35 when he’s actually 14,000. On the eve of his departure, huddled around the cozy fireplace of his newly vacated cottage, John Oldman (David Lee Smith) drops a big bomb on his buddies, admitting that he is a caveman who doesn’t scar and cannot die.
While his fascinated friends bombard him with questions, the highly intellectual bunch of college professors can’t help but be skeptical. They quiz him on everything from biology to psychology, navigation to religion. Oldman seemingly enjoys the grilling, proffers thoughtful and accurate accords so his guests and the film audience are never sure if he is catering to their minds or just pulling their legs. In one recollection, he describes meeting and learning from the Buddha, in another he describes the lay of the land prior to tectonic plate shift. Fascinating stuff, really.
Written by esteemed science fiction writer Jerome Bixby (for all you Twilight Zone and Star Trek fans), The Man from Earth was first conceived in the early 1960s and completed on his death bed in 1998.
For anyone who possesses an investigative nature and a keen philosophical sense of history, and doesn’t mind a room full of ruminating and a movie filled with dialogue, this is a must-see. Just block out the awkward “made-for-tv” angles and a few too-obvious/almost reading off a cue-card performances (William Katt from 80s TV’s Greatest American Hero and Candyman‘s Tony Todd are the best of the bunch), although the director’s former work was for Playboy videos and that explains a lot.
NOTE: The director informs me that they had shot the entire film in eight days on a difficult location but I must say that perhaps if they had more time, diluting the distracting absence of actor chemistry cohesion, The Man from Earth would have been even more transcending. While I did enjoy the subtle moments, like poor Edith’s pining for a younger man (perhaps she perceived the “old soul” within or felt protective), the performances were a bit despotic and tame and I myself pined for some sort of harmony to help facilitate the defined topics. However, the complete irony of a story that took over thirty years to write and was rushed in production is unfortunate, but may be grounds enough to invite viewers to vault its premise to a closer inspection/retrospection. Your own conclusions will only be limited by your curiosity.
SF Bay Area Residents: The World Premiere of The Man from Earth will be at SFIndie’s Another Hole in the Head Festival on June 10th and 13th, 2007
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