The Man from Earth

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The Man from Earth
ManFromEarth.png
The Man from Earth theatrical poster.
Directed by Richard Schenkman
Produced by Emerson Bixby, Eric D. Wilkinson, Richard Schenkman
Written by Jerome Bixby
Starring David Lee Smith
John Billingsley
Tony Todd
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment,
Shoreline Entertainment
Release date(s) November 13 2007
Running time 89 min.
Language English
Budget $200,000[1]

The Man from Earth is a 2007 science fiction indie film, written by Jerome Bixby from 1960-1998 (this was his final work). Known for many of his other projects, this movie was dedicated to his son Michael Bixby as well. This film stars actor David Lee Smith as John Oldman, the protagonist character and focus of the movie's plot. John Oldman is a professor who, at the moving party thrown by his friends, admits that he is a Cro-Magnon, a Magdalenian to be specific, who has survived (through "perfect cellular regeneration") for the last 14,000 years! The movie is reminescent of a play; it takes place only as a discussion between Dr. Oldman and his fellow faculty members/friends, in one room of his house.

Through many internet websites and BitTorrent, this cheaply made movie has gained recognition as one of the many masterpieces of Bixby's work.

Contents

Plot

Spoiler Alert: If you are planning on seeing the movie.

The movie begins on an outdoor scene as Dr. John Oldman prepares to leave, packing many of his belongings in the back of the car. It does not mention where he plans to go; neither does he mention it to his friends. First to arrive at his house is his friend Dan, a fellow faculty member and anthropologist. Next are his friends Edith, another peer and Christian literalist, Harry, a biology professor, and his love interest, Sandy, a historian. Next to his car, Edith notices a "copy" of a Van Gogh work, addressed to one "Jacques Borne"; John insists its a copy, and nothing more.

The first note of John's "specialness" is when Edith commits, in a jovial manner, how John doesn't look any older than when he first arrived 10 years ago, while his friends and colleagues have. In addition, his friends find two artifacts around his house of interest--a stone carved (that he insists he got at a thrift shop), and what looks to be a finely carved bow.

Lastly, his friend and fellow professor Art Jenkins and his student Linda arrive, also wishing to celebrate. John, realizing this and wanting to leave them off as his true self, proposes the hypothetical question--what if a man from the upper Paleolithic survived until the present day? What would he be like?

His friends play along, each proposing new ways--he would learn, he would look like us as well. Dan proposes that he would be just as intelligent, and would learn through the races as one man. Slowly, the question goes to Harry, the biologist, who says, in response as to what would keep this hypothetical caveman alive, replies: "Cigarettes and ice cream." He then contends that it would in fact be perfect cellular generation, and that the human body, as we see it, is designed to last up to 190 years.

Did he do something right? Did he do something no one else did?

John, sensing this would be a good time, slowly reveals his intentions--responding for shock that he had a chance to travel with Columbus, although he wasn't sure if the Earth was flat or not.

His friend stood aghast, wondering if this was a joke or not. As such, he reveals his intentions: he is that caveman. Still, he tells them to play along, until letting out a primordial grunt, to the chagrin of his friends. He explains his motives: after ten or so years, when people notice his lack of aging, he moves; he believes he is a Cro-Magnon, about 14,000 years old. He explains that the figure is no more than a guess; how could it not be?

He explains then how he aged until about 35, his "first lifetime", and then stopped. The primitives around him saw him to be magical at first, and then abandoned him out of fear (a prehistoric explanation for the vampire myth). While his friends, being very educated, are skeptical of his claims; much of his memory can be found in any textbook.

Edith remembers the Van Gogh painting outside, and asks if it is real or not (since John would certainly be old enough to know Van Gogh). John replies, yes--he was under the guise of Jacques Borne, a pig farmer. After Van Gogh's death, about 1890, he says he moved to America, an explanation to the lack of an accent.

The conservation between his friends is cyclidic; passing to Linda, the most credulous at 22, asks as to the reason he does not recall where he was from. Countering her, he replies that there is a lack of any landmarks--wilderness has been replaced by "freeways, urban sprawl, Big Macs under the Eiffel Tower."

While most of the group wants to hear him out, entertained, during a leave of absence Art calls his psychiatrist friend, the aging Dr. Gruber, part concerned, part confused about John. Dr. Gruber arrives, the conversation progressing in a manner that greatly disturbs and depresses him; his wife just recently died, and the fact that someone around him will never die is too much. His presence climaxes as he threatens to shoot John, eventually calming down and leaving. However, John, fearing that he may commit suicide, asks before he leaves to take his loaded gun.

Unfortunately, the conversation turns for the worse as his inquisitive friends ask him the ever controversial question, "Does he have any religious beliefs?" After thousands and thousands of years of hearing creation stories, gods after gods, he believes in none, only feigning such during times when it was necessary. Even worse, it comes to the question: "Was he a figure in religious history?" Really reluctant to respond, and tries to sum up the New Testament in 100 words. Edith, being religious and greatly offended, tries to leave; Harry convinces her to stay.

It comes to a shocking revelation: John was in fact Joshua of Nazareth. Unlike the "mythical overlays", John had come to Israel to preach the Buddha's teachings (he had studied under the Buddha), to disasterous consequences. Although he was crucified (he cannot scar, and they used ropes, not nails, but it makes better religious imagery), he comes to life by equalizing his body functions, something he learned under the Buddha. This even more disturbs Edith, who is so shocked at his apparent blasphemy.

After heated debate, Dr. Gruber returns, still concerned but not suicidal. He implores John to end his charade, and, at the expense of his credibility, convinces his friends that this was nothing but a story, and all of his friends were players. This infuriates most of them, and after Dan calls him an explicative, they calm down. Edith, like "a good Christian", forgives him, and all his friends except Sandy wish him goodbye.

Sandy, using her intuition, figures out that he is telling the truth, John would never "use people, or abuse their good will". Unlike the others, he caves and admits it, telling her many of his other "pun" names: John Palee, for Paleolithic, John Savage, and 60 years ago, John Thomas Parti, John T. Parti. Unbeknownst to John, Dr. Gruber stands behind him in clear shock--John T. Parti, a chemist at Harvard, was his father. Horrified at the prospect, he admits this, supplying facts that no one but Gruber's family would know.

However, the shock of this information is too much to bear, and Dr. Gruber has a heart attack. The movie, however, ends on a brighter note, as he decides to spend her life with Sandy.


Production

Directed on a 200,000 dollar budget, this was Jerome Bixby's, a writer best known for "It's a Good Life", completed posthumously after his death in 1998. Dictating the last of it, it is dedicated to his son and screenwriter, Emerson Bixby. After his death, the script was handed down to Richard Schenkman to direct on a very modest budget.

Cast

Actors:

  • David Lee Smith is John Oldman
  • Tony Todd is Dan
  • John Billingsley is Harry
  • Ellen Crawford is Edith
  • Annika Peterson is Sandy
  • William Katt is Art Jenkins
  • Alexis Thorpe is Linda Murphy
  • Richard Riehle is Dr. Will Gruber
  • Robbie Bryan is Police Officer


Reviews

The reviews for The Man from Earth are overwelmingly positive:

  • "A considerable achievement... a picture which deserves wide exposure... The Man From Earth gradually and stimulatingly builds to a pitch of near hypnotic intensity." – Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter[2]
  • "Based on a really wonderful final work by Jerome Bixby... If you’re a fan of Bixby's – it's a must own." – Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News[3]
  • "The Man From Earth restores dignity to science fiction of the mind." - Michael Guillen, Twitch[4]
  • "A tall tale... that ends with a devastatingly clever twist." - Michael Janusonis, The Providence Journal[5]
  • "Great acting performances... with an ending you wouldn't want to miss... Jerome Bixby's last written work has turned out to be his best." - Hock Teh, IGN[6]
  • "A mind bending drama... It sure beats watching Transformers." - Nick Lyons, DVD Talk[7]
  • "The Man From Earth is very much a labor of love from all involved... it's well worth the effort. The final work from the writer responsible for some of the finest episodes of The Twilight Zone and the original Star Trek gets a thoughtful, low-budget treatment." – Ian Spelling, Sci Fi.com[8]
  • "Jerome Bixby's The Man From Earth is one of the most intelligent science fiction films ever made... probably one of the best science fiction films of the decade." – Mark L. Leeper, Stephen Hunt's SF Crows Nest[9]
  • "The Man From Earth really has a chance of being the single best piece of screenwriting you will see on a screen large or small this year (really!)." – Late Film[10]


Publicity through filesharing

Unlike all other movies, the publicity for the movie was very creative: while most directors wish to stop filesharing, the director encouraged it. As such, the indie film rose to a fame it would have never received if left alone.

Memorable Quotes

"But a talking snake made a lady eat an apple, so we're screwed." - John Oldman

"Edith, I was raised on the Torah, my wife on the Qu'Ran, my eldest son is an Atheist, my youngest is a scientologist, my daughter is studying Hinduism, I imagine there is room there for a holy war in my living room, but we practice live and let live." - Harry

"Harry: Well, you're finally fulfilling one prophecy about the millennium, John. John Oldman: What's that? Harry: Here you are again."

"Dr. Will Gruber: I still don't believe you, of course. You need help. John Oldman: Everybody needs help."

"Dr. Will Gruber: When did you begin to believe you were Jesus? John Oldman: When did you begin to believe you were a psychiatrist? Dr. Will Gruber: Since I graduated from Harvard Medical School and finished my residency, I've had that feeling. Why I sometimes dream about it. John Oldman: Have you acted upon this belief?"

Connection to Atheism

Many have drawn parallels in the movie to atheism and anti-religion, including the apparent blasphemous talk about Jesus (John Oldman reveals that he learned under the Buddha, and that Jesus was almost totally mythical), the mention of other Gods, and many other plot details.[1] As such, many atheist organizations have rightly embraced it as a crowning achievement of science fiction and a great debate tool.

References

  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named latimes
  2. The Man From Earth - The Hollywood Reporter, Film review
  3. Harry's DVD PICKS AND PEEKS for 2nd Week of November - Ain't It Cool News, Film review
  4. 2007 HOLEHEAD—REVIEW of Man From Earth - Twitch, Film review
  5. Reliving the really old days with The Man From Earth - The Providence Journal, Film review
  6. The Man From Earth DVD Review - IGN, Film review
  7. Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth - DVD Talk, Film review
  8. Man from Earth - Sci-Fi Weekly, Film review
  9. The Man From Earth: Mark's take - Stephen Hun's SF Crow's nest, Film review
  10. Is Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth this years sleeper hit? - Late Film, Film review
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