(Recommended by iamthechampion007)
The Buddha knew there was something different about me.
– John to his audience
Director: Richard Schenkman.
Writer: Jerome Bixby
Cast: David Lee Smith, John Billingsley, Tony Todd, Richard Riehle
Not unless you’ve seen this movie would you grasp how apt the above headline is.
At the behest of one of the many schmucks who orbit around my virtual home, I watched The Man from Earth last night.
Being the polymath that I’m, I’d, of course, heard of The Man from Earth.
I vaguely remembered that the centerpiece of the movie was about a man who claimed to be 14,000-years-old.
Since I see a lot of movies, it takes a lot to impress me. Alas, most movies leave me with a deja vu, time-wasted feeling.
But I will confess right at the outset that The Man from Earth is one of the rare movies that held my attention.
And for once I’m glad to have heeded the suggestion of a reader.
What’s It About?
Well, a better question would have been What’s He All About?
Or, if you follow the lead of some of the characters in the movie, maybe even What’s His Yarn All About?
The He and His refers to John, one of the characters in the film.
It’d be wrong to describe John as the ‘main’ character.
This is not that kind of movie.
If there’s a central ‘anything’ in this highly interesting movie it’s the incredible story John Oldman (David Lee Smith) narrates to his fellow professors who have arrived at his cottage to bid him goodbye.
John is ‘moving on’ and a few of his close colleagues have gathered at the cottage to have a drink and also find out why he’s leaving when things are going swimmingly well for him.
And Thus Spake John
Although at first reluctant to disclose the reasons behind his imminent departure, John slowly lets the cat out of the bag.
It’s a cozy setting in John’s cottage.
The small group of friends is drinking Johnny Walker Green Whiskey and digging into chicken wings.
At the prodding of his friends, John embarks upon a gripping, astonishing account of his origins as a caveman and the many, many, many years since.
Although completely disbelieving his tale and occasionally even angry over the ‘hoax’ being played on them, John’s colleagues are spellbound and won’t let him stop.
For after all, John’s life voyage has been an extraordinary one taking him through calm seas and rough waves of many ages, many civilization and many geographies.
To every question designed to trip him up, John has the ‘right’ answer!
The cave paintings in France, Sumerians, India, Buddha, Biblical figures, Plague, Columbus and the modern cell phone, John has seen ’em all.
I found The Man from Earth interesting for several reasons.
First, the story is so outrageous and so riveting in its ability to stun even jaded moviegoers like yours truly.
The majority of movies, more so Indian films, are repetitive with similar underlying themes of love, crime, revenge etc and differ merely in the details or the stars playing the roles.
But The Man from Earth is a triumph of imagination. Kudos to the late short story and science fiction writer Jerome Bixby.
Second, the screenplay in tune with the story is brilliant in its simplicity.
Oftentimes in life, simplicity is a goal harder to meet than complexity.
Third, the acting, whether of David Lee Smith who plays John, Tony Todd (as Dan), John Billingsley (Harry) or the others is decent and seems perfect for the narrative.
There’s a message too in the movie but Man is unlikely to heed it in his march of folly.
Although the entire setting of the movie is within the small confines of a cottage, I found very pleasing the lighting arrangement, particularly toward the end as it gets dark.
The tragic ending served as the fitting finale of a film that relies more on the stimuli of engaging dialogs to draw the audience into its fold..
By the way, The Man from Earth was made on a budget of, hold your breath now, $200,000. Yes, a piffling two hundred thousand dollars.
Of course, this stimulating literal ‘caveman’ film is not for the figurative Indian cavemen who drool only at the sight of a Salman, Katrina or Akshay behaving like asses on the screen.
But I’ll take the literal caveman any day. 😉