Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Man from Earth


There are some movies that you just can’t get out of your head. They scratch you right where you itch and you just can't get enough of them. They make you think, they make you throw back your head and marvel at the creativity that fueled the story and the participants. One such movie is “The Man fromEarth”.

The entire movie is set in one living room. There are some shots outside the room on the porch and one shot from the porch overlooking the driveway. Other than that, everything is inside that one living room. And with such a limited setting, this movie draws you in like a Venus fly-trap. You feel like you are part of the group sitting and talking. Let me copy some info on the movie from IMDb to give you some background –

An impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman becomes a mysterious interrogation after the retiring scholar reveals to his colleagues he never ages and has walked the earth for 14,000 years

The list of characters are as follows –
  • John Oldman – The ‘Cro-Magnon’.
  • Harry - A biologist
  • Edith - Art Historian (and a religious person)
  • Dan - An anthropologist
  • Sandy - A historian
  • Will Gruber - A psychiatrist
  • Art - An archeologist
  • Linda - Art's student

The magic of the movie starts when John reveals to the group that he is a cro-magnon man. The discussion begins from there. The initial reaction is that of laughter. But when the motley crew realize that John isn’t joking, their laughter turns to incredulity, disbelief, envy, wonder, rage and concern (not necessarily in that order).

What is absolutely magical though, is the reaction of each and every person to John’s revelations through the course of the discussion. Since the group is a highly educated one, there is very little crassness about the discussion. Each person brings his or her own specialty to the table. Harry immediately starts wondering how this would be possible from a biological perspective. Art immediately wants to know about tool usage and locations. Small details are shot beautifully. Dan is shown to be the most open to the idea and makes a very important statement – that just as John can’t prove his statement, the rest can’t disprove it. This sets the stage for people to take positions. From memories to geography to timescapes/landscapes the discussion takes interesting turns. John’s responses are so simple and obvious that you wonder about the plausibility.

Soon the discussion turns to religion. On deeper probing, it turns out that John was Jesus! He explains to the group that he learnt a lot from the Buddha and all he wanted to do was teach the west about it. But since he was talking of radical notions, he was persecuted. He then describes each fantasy in the bible as a simple occurrence that was embellished by his followers to create the religion that is Christianity. This immediately offends Edith. This is where the movie really comes into its own. The discussion takes interesting turns from the plausibility of such a simplistic religion to the authenticity of the Bible itself. There is another brief discussion on morality and men which is quite thought provoking too.

I won’t take up too much of your time with details of the actual discussions. But I must say one thing – the movie is a must-watch. Such clean simple acting and taut story! In the confines of one room, the director and writer (and the actors of course) take the viewer through a timeless journey. They force the viewer to rethink his/her worldview and come away breathless. They made me pause the movie and think about what was being said like it was a conversation. They made me wish the movie was real wish I could participate in the actual conversation. They left me with a wonder-struck expression on my face much after the screen went blank. They made me wish I had more intelligent conversations in my life to enrich it further. They made me thank my forefathers for the wealth of knowledge that science has produced and the immense potential that the human brain has; and made me sad that we’ve wasted so much till now in foolish pursuits like religion.

Kudos to all involved in this gem of a movie. A true collectible.