The Man from Earth (2007)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Man from Earth</strong> (2007)

(Hoopla streaming, September 2018) At first glance, there are many reasons why The Man from Earth shouldn’t work as a movie — In the first five minutes, we’re confronted with substandard filmmaking with the dull cinematography, pedestrian dialogue, mediocre direction and over-emoting actors that are the hallmarks of a low-budget production. (Although, to be fair, the most over-emoting actor is playing a deliberately annoying character who calms down throughout the film.) But as the film unfolds, the dialogue creates a fascinating premise—what if a prehistoric man, somehow immortal, had survived until now? Then the film has the characters wrestle with the implications of that premise and director Richard Schenkman’s The Man from Earth becomes that rarest of creations—an entirely idea-driven movie, with bare-minimum filmmaking supporting the high-end concept being explored through conversations and questions. Fans of written science fiction have known this feeling for decades, but it’s a remarkably rare choice for movies—no wonder that the film is adapted by SF writer Jerome Bixby from his moderately well-known short story. The Man from Earth does take a few storytelling risks toward the end, tying one of its characters to a historical figure and then finding an unexpected link with another character. Both of these choices stretch credibility, and I would have preferred a more qualified approach to those revelations (picking Judas as the historical figure, for one thing, and perhaps stating the deliberate nature of the two characters’ proximity) but they don’t really harm the movie. Suffice to say that The Man from Earth is a unique movie, and one that will appeal to people who aren’t always fans of the Hollywood factory approach to science-fiction films. No wonder that the film became a substantial success on file-sharing sites after a quasi-non-existent theatrical exhibition and a small-scale video release: it appeals to people most likely to be file-sharing enthusiasts. Finding it legally can be a challenge (don’t expect a TV showing: other than the expensive DVD editions, I eventually found it on a library-sponsored streaming site) but it’s worth the effort of tracking down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *