The Man from Earth (2007)
The Man from Earth (2007)

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 27 min.

Release Date: June 10th, 2007 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Richard Schenkman Actors: David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley, Ellen Crawford, Annika Peterson, William Katt, Alexis Thorpe, Richard Riehle

 


 

“I

s there a problem?” John Oldman (David Lee Smith) is departing in a hurry, much to the chagrin of his longtime friends, who won’t be able to give him an appropriate farewell party. After a decade of professorship, and without any solid plans for where he’s going, it seems as if something is wrong. John claims it’s itchy feet and a customary routine, yet his pals can’t stop from prying.

Conspicuous, irritating, melancholy background music plays far too much, as if the composer (Mark Hinton Stewart) was also the producer, and insisted upon its inclusion. Eventually, it transitions into something more upbeat, but no less annoying. Despite the lack of special effects, the single set, no notable props, and the limited number of cast members, it’s this ever-present, overbearing music that most marks “The Man from Earth” as a low-budget, amateurish endeavor.

Fellow educators Dan (Tony Todd), Harry (John Billingsley), Edith (Ellen Crawford), and Sandy (Annika Peterson), archaeologist Art Jenkins (William Katt), and student Linda Murphy (Alexis Thorpe) gather around the nearly empty house, with John’s personal belongings packed up in boxes around them. With a bottle of high-end whiskey and some plastic cups, the various teachers hunker down to reminisce and to engage in one final discussion, this time about what might occur if a person could live for 14,000 years. “You’re among friends; snoopy friends.”

As it turns out, John harbors a secret: he insists that he is, in fact, one such miraculously undying person, who has lived for 200 lifetimes. He uproots his life and changes his identity every ten years when people start to notice that he doesn’t age. And he’s about to spill his guts to his pals – the first time he’s ever decided to reveal the truth of his existence. “Pretend it’s science-fiction.”

The premise is incredibly simple, yet thoroughly fascinating. It’s an opportunity for intelligent people to interview and discuss the centuries-long adventures of a “caveman,” hypothesizing what might have occurred in a hypothetical scenario of immortality. From the origination of the continents, to hanging out with Van Gogh, to spending a year in a Belgium prison in the 1800s, John has an answer for everything. And the collection of professors attempt to interrogate him exhaustively, yet they’re unable to disprove the man’s seemingly insane assertions. In many ways, his tale is an account of history, commenting on the growth of civilizations and the advancements of societies, making it more and more difficult for him to continually reinvent himself.

“I almost wish it were true.” When Art calls in physician Dr. Will Gruber (Richard Riehle), assuming that John is actually psychotic, things grow even more absorbing. The beauty of the tale is that, during their discussions, nothing can be irrefutably proved or invalidated (personal stories could have merely been culled from books). One of the most amusing revelations is that, despite the years of learning and gathering knowledge, no one can be smarter than the peers of their era; a single person can’t advance beyond the technological limitations of the present. Plus, the passing of time grows wearisome, causing accomplishments, possessions, money, and relationships to attain a certain meaninglessness.

As far as heady sci-fi projects go, “The Man from Earth” might be the least traditional of them all; there are no spaceships or teleporting or lasers or intergalactic conflicts. Yet it’s nevertheless a science-fiction work, even if it transpires like a stage play. While touching upon religion, biblical yarns, mythology, philosophy, scholarly musings, mortality, psychiatry, environmental balance, and more, the nature of perpetually changing historical narratives is electrifying. The possibilities are endless. “History hates a vacuum.”

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10