Friday, November 3, 2017

#2,454. The Man from Earth (2007)


Directed By: Richard Schenkman

Starring: David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley



Tag line: "From one of the acclaimed writers of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone comes a story that transcends both time and space... "

Trivia: The last work by screenwriter Jerome Bixby before his death







If I were to tell you that, for 80+ minutes, director Richard Schenkman’s 2007 film The Man from Earth features a group of people who do nothing but sit in a single room and talk to one another, I’m guessing you might say “No thanks”.

But what if I added it’s also an incredibly intriguing motion picture, and that I didn’t want it to end? 

Would that pique your interest? 

If so, good: you’re in for a treat if you decide to watch this movie.

If not… well, you’re missing out on something quite special.

After 10 years on the job, college professor John Oldman (David Lee Smith) has tendered his resignation, and is moving on. His colleagues, including archaeologist Art (William Katt); anthropologist Dan (Tony Todd); biologist Harry (John Billingsley); theologian Edith (Ellen Crawford); psychiatrist Dr. Will Gruber (Richard Riehle); and John’s assistant Sandy (Annika Peterson), all gather at John’s remote cabin for an impromptu farewell party, wishing him well but at the same time wondering why he’s in such a hurry to leave. One by one, they pressure him for an explanation, and it’s at this point that John makes a shocking confession: he has been alive since the era of Cro-Magnon man, approximately 140 centuries ago, and during that entire time he hasn’t aged a single day! 

Naturally, no one believes him, and a few even think their friend may be losing his mind. Over the course of several hours the group discusses a wide range of topics, peppering John with question after question in an attempt to prove that he’s lying about his past. 

But what if John’s claims are true, and he really is tens of thousands of years old?

Writer Jerome Bixby (who also penned the story for Forbidden Planet as well as several episodes of the original Star Trek series) reportedly spent decades polishing his script for The Man from Earth, finally completing it right before his death in 1998. And if you ask me, his patience and hard work paid off in a big way; the film’s greatest strength is its intelligent, though-provoking dialogue, flawlessly delivered by a talented cast. Following a brief debate on whether or not it’s possible for a “caveman” to live for centuries, the conversation branches off in a number of different directions, covering everything from history and art to what it is that makes us human. The movie also tackles religion, both ancient and modern; and even throws a few interesting twists our way, including an ending that, though arguably a bit contrived, caught me completely off-guard.

I’m tempted to delve a bit further into the film (I even jotted down a few of its more memorable quotes, in the hope I might be able to work them into the above review), but I dare not do so; The Man from Earth is a movie that deserves to be seen, and it’s surprises should remain a secret to all but those who have watched it. 

I’ll say this for it, though: The Man from Earth is, without a doubt, the most fascinating dialogue-heavy film that I’ve ever experienced.







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