The Man from Earth is one of those strange little films that you discover late one evening while searching through scores of made for
cable streaming movies used to bulk up content so claims like “thousands of movies on available for streaming” can be made. It is the kind of film that you aren’t sure will be any good but, hey, since you want to relax and unwind with something that doesn’t require much thought you decide to give it a watch. But then it turns out to be something really special, really thought provoking, and it keeps you up much later than you either expected or wanted. [Amazon Streaming, DVD]
This film struck a chord with me. There are many things in life that make one aware of the passage of time. That’s one aspect to the film. But the film also resonated with me on a different (and yet related) theme, what I will call a movement through place.
Everyone has experienced the movement through place phenomenon in its simplest form, the inability to return home again. Most people give cursory thought as to why this is. Some come up with an answer somewhere around the idea that it is they who have grown or changed over time. And while there is certainly some truth to this, I have come to feel that a big part of the change in people is due to the movement through place . I’ll write more about movement through place in a later post.
Man from Earth plays as though it was written and directed for the stage – an approach that works really well with the subject matter. (The film’s director has written a stage adaptation.) Someday I’d like to actually see it performed on stage.
So, what’s the film about? The producers of the film offer the following summary:
After history professor John Oldman unexpectedly resigns from the University, his startled colleagues impulsively invite themselves to his home, pressing him for an explanation. But they’re shocked to hear his reason for premature retirement: John claims he must move on because he is immortal, and cannot stay in one place for more than ten years without his secret being discovered. Tempers rise and emotions flow as John’s fellow professors attempt to poke holes in his story, but it soon becomes clear that his tale is as impossible to disprove as it is to verify. What starts out as a friendly gathering soon builds to an unexpected and shattering climax. Acclaimed science fiction writer Jerome Bixby, writer of the original ‘Star Trek’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’, originally conceived this story back in the early 1960’s. It would come to be his last great work.
That’s actually a pretty good description without giving anything away, as you learn John Oldman’s secret in the first few minutes of the film. The rest of the movie is really about judging the veracity of John’s story. Is the story plausible? Even if his fellow professors have a hard time believing the story, do they still believe the storyteller? One of the things I really like about the film is how John Oldman explains his understanding of the passage of time through his movement through place.
So if you have 90 minutes, I highly recommend the film.