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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: July 3: The Man from Earth


July 3: The Man from Earth

"The movie begins with Professor John Oldman packing his belongings onto his truck, preparing to move to a new home."
Directed by: Richard Schenkman, Rated: NR, 87 minutes

The Man from Earth is a very unusual film. It's more of a conversation than it is a movie and it leaves you wondering about a lot of things, from life and death, to God and religion. It's a tale about knowledge and wondering how much can one man learn over the span of a lifetime. Or, in this case, lifetimes. At what point in a man's history do memories fog up beyond recognition and at what capacity can our minds continue to contain ideas and information? The Man From Earth discusses all of this, posing the question "If one man could live for 14,000 years, how much would he know?". 

Centuries of memories and he probably still can't remember what he had for breakfast. 

The Man from Earth is about John Oldman (David Lee Smith), a college professor who decides it's time for him to move away. Before he leaves, he gathers his colleagues and friends (other professors and scholars) at his cabin for a little goodbye party. Usual conversation ensues, as one would imagine, but then John poses a very interesting question. If a man, even a caveman, found a way to essentially live forever, what would the consequences be and how could it even happen? At first, the question is almost a riddle or a game. Something John wants discussed between him and his intellectual friends, some psychologists, some biologists. What would it take for one man to live that long and what would a conversation with him be like? After discussing the idea, posing it as research for a sci-fi novel, John confesses to his friends that he is indeed, a 14,000 year old man, who has roamed the world since the dawn of man, running into all sorts of historical and religious figures. At first, it seems like a joke, but as John continues to elaborately explain his past, his "lie" begins to seem more and more real. Along with his friends, the audience is left to figure out if John is in fact telling the truth, of if he is just f**king with the minds of those he's about to move away from. The entire movie is practically a round-table discussion set in John's living room, and while there are no flashbacks, the stories John tells paint quite the picture of the past. It's a wonderful mystery that begs to be solved, and while the ending does tell you if he is indeed telling the truth or not, it's still somewhat left to the imagination.

He certainly doesn't look like your Geico kind of caveman. 

The Man from Earth is a film written by Jerome Bixby, the man who also wrote The Fantastic Voyage, and a handful of episodes of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. It's very similar in the mysterious supernatural aspects of his previous writings, while maintaining a humanistic realism. The Man from Earth is a movie carried by its dialogue and performances, as it really is just a stage play on the screen. The script is incredibly strong and well thought out and researched. Sure, the premise is very implausible, but the characters and dialogue make it believable. David Lee Smith is incredibly likable as John. Each thought he provokes and each picture he describes could very well be true to some extent. He's caring, sympathetic, and wise beyond belief, and what he says is not easily dismissed as too far-fetched or crazy. The rest of the cast is very good as well, with many faces you'd recognize from countless TV shows and low budget movies, but never were able to place a name on. 

Yes, that is the Candyman (Tony Todd)

The Man from Earth is definitely worth a watch. I feel the movie would make for a great discussion in a philosophy or anthropology class as it raises a lot of points that would certainly warrant strong feelings and emotions. It is rather controversial, but instead of slapping you across the face with what many would consider blasphemy, it presents the facts with great research and care. It's not out to get you or piss you off, it's simply out to inspire thought about everything going on around you. It leaves you wondering about your own mortality and if living forever would be as nice as it seems. I'd definitely recommend The Man from Earth, but keep in mind it is certainly not for everyone. You need patience and attention to respect and understand the film. Even then, it may be too out of the box to appreciate.

The Good:
an unusually unique premise that plays out wonderfully with a very strong script
The Better:
the fact the movie actually leaves you thinking about so many things, almost as though you just left a damn good lecture by some genius professor
The Best:
David Lee Smith leading a solid cast that is never too distracting from the story, each cast member believable in the role they play

Overall: 7.8/10


Re-watch? Yes
Buy? Yes

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