The Man from Earth: Totally Engaging Science-Fiction
Director: Richard Schenkman
Based on noted Sci-Fi writer Jerome Bixby’s last story ever written, ‘The Man from Earth’ is a story of time travel, where there’s no time travel at all. This is the kind of the film that’ll be shredded by many, understood by few and embraced by handful cinephiles. Fortunately, I happen to be one of those cinephiles to have loved this film. All those who ever had a thing for screenplay will love this film while the rest would’ve got an opportunity to see a different film for a change.
John Oldman, a professor by profession is all set to move to an unknown destination, when his closest friends show up on his cabin and throw an impromptu party. John and his highly intellectual friends, an anthropologist, a biologist, a psychologist, and few more indulge in a conversation only to discover that John Oldman is actually 14,000 years old and from the Cro-Magnon era. And because he does not age, John leaves a place every ten years in order to evade suspicion.
Spoiler! This film is definitely not for those who like to be entertained. The only form of entertainment, according to me, comes in the form of the film’s ability to keep you captivated throughout, from minute one to the last. The film brings forth so many questions and subsequently answers each and every one of them with credible examples. At one point, you point a finger at John and question his immortality while in the next one you succumb to his theories just as his friends. But, throughout there’s a sense of uncertainty that will keep lingering in your head, paving way to questions such as ‘is John speaking the truth’, ‘can someone actually live through thousands of years’ or ‘is he just hallucinating and narrating the same in the form of a story’ and so on and so forth.
The film has its share comical moments. Not as comical as you’d typically see in any film but in intelligent ways that’ll make you participate in the discourse. It goes something like this:
John Oldman: I’m 14,000 years old.
Anthropologist: Now, wait a minute, Biologist Guy. What if John’s telling the truth? How could we disprove it? After all, scientists believe that Cro-Magnon Era man was physically and mentally indistinguishable from us.
Biologist: Wait, you’re serious, John? Well, when did you first realize that the Earth was round?
There’s hardly anything wrong in this film that could be brought forth however the entire premise for many will remain a question. The twist in the climax is a surprise much to everybody’s delight which by the way depends on how will the viewers take it. ‘The Man from Earth’ is the kind of the film you should treat yourself with once in a while just to see how you would take it. There’s love in the film between John and Sandy, the kind that’s silent and allows itself to speak on behalf of the characters. There’s grief when everybody comes to learn about the passing away of Dr. Will Gruber’s wife. And there’s suspense – where did John come from and where will he go next, which is left unanswered till the end? So, technically, everything that you’d expect from any normal film is in this film too however presented in the most unorthodox fashion.
The entire film is shot in a single room with few minutes of the film shot on the outside. The performances were excellent, led by an outstanding David Lee Smith. The film is shouldered by each and every member of the cast and therefore the credit for pulling it off brilliantly goes to the director Richard Schenkman.
It’s believed that writer Jerome Bixby (Star Trek, Television series) completed this story on his deathbed. Hats off to him!
Not an official trailer but still watchable