THE MAN FROM EARTH (2007)
PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES: mortality, empirical evidence, religious faith.
CHARACTERS: John Oldman, Dan (black anthropologist), Harry (biologist, strange guy with glasses), Edith (older woman, devout Christian), Sandy (historian, John's girlfriend), Art (long blonde haired archeologist), Linda Murphy (Art's student), Will Gruber (old psychiatrist).
OTHER FILMS BY DIRECTOR RICHARD SCHENKMAN: And Then Came Love (2007)
SYNOPSIS: "An impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman becomes a mysterious interrogation after the retiring scholar reveals to his colleagues he is an immortal who has walked the earth for 14,000 years. Acclaimed Sci-Fi writer Jerome Bixby conceived this story back in the early 1960's. It would come to be his last great work, finally completing it on his deathbed in April of 1998." – producer's website
1. Throughout the film, John’s friends search for ways to either confirm or disconfirm his story. What were some of their attempts, and what was John’s response?
2. Can you think of possible ways to confirm or disconfirm John’s story that hadn’t occurred to his friends?
3. John states that he once met someone that was like him, but when the two exchanged life stories, he couldn’t be sure that the other man was telling the truth, or just playing along. Is there anything that John and his friend could have said to each other that would have confirmed the truth of their stories?
4. Suppose that one of John’s friends was a linguist and asked John to prove his story by speaking in the many languages that he learned over the millennia. Suppose further that John was fluent in modern foreign languages, but only knew a few phrases of ancient ones. Would this hurt John’s claim?
5. Which of the friends’ reactions best (and least) reflects how you would have responded if you were in the room with John and the others that evening?
6. John states that he was the historical Jesus, and that early Christians embellished what actually happened to the point that it was no longer historically recognizable. Suppose this was true and, without John’s help, we tried to extract from the New Testament the portions that were historically true. What might we select and what might we reject?
7. What were John’s personal religious views, and if you lived 14,000 years like John, what might your religious views be?
8. From your perspective, what would be the most rewarding part about living 14,000 years, and what would be the least rewarding?
9. John said that he had a lot of money. How might he have accumulated it?
10. Suppose John wanted to bury something and dig it up centuries later, either for personal financial gain or historical benefit. What objects might he select, and what would guide his choice?
11. John wasn’t capable of telling Sandy that he loved her. Granted, after 14,000 years of relationships, he would try to emotionally distance himself from people. But in view of the biological basis of romantic love, is that realistic for a 35 year old man?
12. In an old Twilight Zone episode called “Long Live Walter Jameson”, a youthful-looking man is really 200 years old, and becomes engaged to a young woman. He is then shot by an old woman who was his wife from years earlier. In “The Man from Earth,” Sandy knows full well what her fate is with John, but is willing to go along with it anyway. Are either of these responses realistic?
13. John knew all along that Will was his son (as indicated in John’s facial response when he discovers that Will overheard him talking with Sandy about his Boston days). We might assume that John intentionally took a job at the college to be closer to his son. What kind of parental obligation did John have to Will throughout the years?
The Man from Earth was a clever and intriguing movie. I really enjoyed the plot, because of the originality (to me at least) of it. First, positive points about the film: the scientific theorizing near the start as to how a man could live this long and what his or her body would be like worked well, but I thought it could have been drawn out a little more (the whole movie could have used a little more content in my opinion with such an interesting plot). It also raises some philosophical questions as to how a human mind that is, seemingly, so much like ours could not be worn out with life at this point and not just give up, staying at home all day watching TV until it croaked. A whole different philosophical point brought up is the conception of truth and proof. He continually claims he has no way of proving this to anyone, but what would count as proof anyway. If he did have scars or mementos, would those things really convince any of the people there. He could easily have falsified evidence for it with his knowledge, even more so if he had the knowledge of 14,000 years (but then his story at least would be true). The main thing that bothered me in this movie was brought up in class, and that was the denouncement of the story of Jesus. I agreed with whoever said it seems a little too easy to attack. Of course, the man who wrote this story, I sure, grew up around Christianity and he doubted it so it makes sense. I m not sure I believed (or would have believed, given I was told this) his story even after the revelation at the end. — T.E.
The Man from Earth is a thought-provoker and leads us to question our beliefs and wonder if we can really know anything for sure. The main character in the movie is Professor John Oldman who leads his fellow colleagues in an interesting tale which starts with pre-historic man and leads though the history of modern man. But what is most interesting and controversial is that he lived though it all, or so he claims. This is (according to John) due to a quirk in his immune system that produces perfect cells, and the theory of him living outside of time. However, none of his friends can refute his claims. They have to take him at his word, and his explanations do appear to be quite believable. So believable that it shakes some of the characters to tears. When it comes to the topic of religion John claims to be Jesus and merely taught Buddhist teachings of Universal brotherhood, kindness, tolerance and love to the people of Judea. The main theme of this movie is an epistemological question; can we know for sure? How can we disprove John’s claims? His answers are convincing. They are not irrational, and it is possible they could happen given the truth of John’s explanations. Merely look at the teachings of Buddha and that of Jesus. They are strikingly similar aren’t they? I cannot disprove John, so I would have to (like the others) take him at his word. Why would an educated college professor lie to his colleagues and friends? Especially claims that are as outrageous as Johns (unless of course it was an intellectual philosophical experiment). But the end of the movie leads us to believe that is not the case. — A.V.
I thought that The Man From Earth was a very good film. The main character, John Oldman, reveals to his colleagues that he is really a caveman from the Neolithic Era. He never ages and he only stays in one place about a decade before moving on. A majority of the movie is spent with his friends trying to prove that he is lying. This movie gives the philosophically inclined a lot of food for thought. It opens the door for some very good discussion on things like learning, family, identity, and sentiment. For example, if you lived 14,000 years how much knowledge could you acquire, what would be the limitations of how much information your brain could hold, or how would your capacity for memory hold up? Also, what would your mental health be like living so long? Having to watch the people you loved wither and die while you were forced to live on? Would the act of living lose its appeal? This movie really left me with a lot of good questions to mull over. I think it also succeeded in showing that you don’t have to have nudity, sex, or violence in a movie in order for it to be compelling. This movie could not have been very expensive to make. It was all shot in one house with a handful of D list actors and they still managed to make a great movie. I would recommend this film to anyone. A great storyline with excellent points brought up throughout the movie put this one at the top of my list. — J.R.
The movie A Man From Earth was a very intriguing movie that put a different spin on the immortal living among us movie. I enjoyed watching it more than most movies that have come across recently. I also thoroughly enjoyed trying to figure out if he was really who he claimed to be and playing with the possibility that John was in fact immortal or something similar. The single most important detail to me John gave was that his cells could be replacing themselves faster than normal humans do. This could explain the fact he wouldn’t age or grow old after he reached his peak of his physical growth. When I heard this I reacted the same way as Harry he biologist did, as if it were a game to try make it really believable or try to disprove it. When Harry asks John to come to his lab to do some test John declines and lives the reason that he is scared of labs and test. I think this is a legitimate fear for someone as unique as him. He could be taken to a facility and have tests run on him till the end of time. Also, who knows what would happen if the tests revealed John’s secret and we could make everybody live as long as John. It could be used wrongly and cause lots of problems that would otherwise be would not have happened with normal human morality. — D.H.
Overall, I thought the theme of The Man From Earth was thought provoking but the scenery left something to be desired. The question of what would happen if a caveman somehow survived to present day sparks an interesting discussion. The first question the audience is forced to think about is the nature of knowledge. How do we know someone is telling the truth? In this scenario, it seems evident that there is no real way to prove that his story is true, although many valiant attempts are made. At first, it seems reasonable that if this man were as old as he claimed to be, he would have some memento from the past. Since John doesn’t have anything like that, the only evidence he can produce is from his memory, which the others start to doubt. The assertion by John that he was Jesus also forces the audience and other characters in the movie to question the legitimacy of the proof of Jesus existence. This, as one can imagine, ruffled a few Christian feathers. The possibility of Jesus not being the miracle-performing son of God would certainly upset them because that’s the basis of their entire religion. However, this is a good point to examine. The stories of Jesus life came from the fallible memories of man, much like John’s story. — D.O.
The Man from Earth posed an interesting philosophical argument via its presentation and introduction of characters in the beginning, and the unraveling of certain events and the characters responses to those events. Specifically, the main character of the film, Prof. John Oldman, begins to convince his colleagues that he is a 14,000 year old man. He persuasively argues his case by having a reasonably logical answer for each of their questions, and by owning many interesting historical artifacts from a variety of eras. However, when some of his testimony conflicts with some of the present company’s religious convictions, emotions get high and John calls the thought argument off. He then apologizes for having made such ridiculous claims, and his guests eventually laugh it off. However, the last guest to leave his house, overhears John speaking with his lover about some of the punny fake names he has used in the past, and this eldest guest of the party realizes that John was his father, who had abandoned their family when he was young. At this point, the possibility of John’s story being valid is reinstated. I really enjoyed this film because it allowed for an interesting thought argument to be logically picked apart in a semi-open and entertaining forum. It also objectively argued a different version of history than is popularly believed, which inspired me to think more broadly about what might have happened in the past despite what I have been taught to believe. — J.D.
I may be the only English speaking person in the known world who found The Man From Earth a little lacking. Audio-visually it’s about as unimpressive as it gets. The score, if there was one, was unmemorable, and the camera work was basically just adequate to show who’s talking to who, and is unapologetically digital. Of course, that’s not what this movie is about. It’s a talking heads film, and so it’s generally acceptable that the majority of the action surrounds people talking to each other in an awkwardly lit cabin, especially given the extraordinary nature of the conversation to come. John, the main character, reveals that he’s a 14,000 year old cave man, one of the first Homo Sapiens to walk the earth, and that he as, as of yet, failed to die. After the initial proofs are asked for and dodged, the characters that make up Johns audience end up emotionally split, with some who wish to humor John and others who just wish he’d shut up. He continues on intermittently telling his story and answering further proofs, and eventually devolves in a tirade of endless historical name dropping which most prominently has him meet Buddha and become Jesus. This is where the film starts to become tiresome. As an early fan of fiction depicting immortals and exceptionally long lived characters, nothing struck me as particularly unique about any element of the story. The concept of Jesus having been influenced by Buddhist teachings was first discussed, I’d have to guess, some time around the first time literate Christians heard of Buddhism, or vice versa. The entire rest of the films plot content could have been lifted directly from the film and television versions of The Highlander, such as the difficulties and heartbreak of establishing new identities, early people’s views on the creepiness of immortality, and the difficulties of adapting to new technology. — J.E.
The Man from Earth wonderful movie that kept me intrigued on a theory that a caveman could live for more than 14,000 years and still look young. He tells his friends that he has to move on because if he gets to attached to a particular area that he eventually makes people suspicious of his unnatural ability to never age. He leads them to believe that he is Jesus as history deemed him in those days. The theory of a man who cannot age is laughable to his friends until they see that he is serious and able to logically and chronologically layout this theory. He sees that his friends just cannot accept this theory; although some admire the scientific quality it has, so Professor John Oldman lets them stay skeptical or fundamentally contented. His description of possessions intrigued me because he points out it eventually becomes worthless and that he has nothing of significance to prove his worth in history, but he has an old Van Gogh in his possession; an original. He tells his friends about all the important people he knew and that he evolved to become an intelligent man over the years. For a movie that has no car chases and typical Hollywood action scenes, this movie captivated my imagination and the solidity the scientific and historical knowledge given. — D.M.
The Man from Earth: The Man From Earth is the must-see sci-fi indie film of our time. The Man From Earth is a Neolithic man who, through some stroke of genetic luck perhaps, has lived to modern times. The movie is basically one big thought experiment and anyone interested in anthropology, history, science, philosophy or religion will thoroughly enjoy it. The downside to this set up is that it is a talking heads movie … so Tarentino fans should enjoy it too. John (our Neolithic protagonist) decides after thousands of years to tell his current professor friends about his condition. What ensues is the aforementioned thought experiment played out through interesting dialogue. At times, it could be a bit forced or contrived … but for such a dialogue-laden film, it was quite well done. For me, the most interesting part was the discussion of how early Neolithic humans lived, but for most, the most profound part will be John’s admission that he was the historical Jesus. He tells his friends that after studying under The Buddha, he decided to bring the teachings that changed his life to the Jews, but things went awry and those Jews, history and the church so greatly misconstrued his intention and the events that John no longer identifies with Christianity. The Man From Earth is a film not to be overlooked. — J.B.
The Man from Earth, based on the novel by Jerome Bixby, starts out with the main character, John Oldman, who is celebrating his retirement with his colleagues. They start the night slow and start to ask him questions about his leaving. After a while, he starts to ask his guests their thoughts on if a man could have survived a certain amount of time. John starts to explain his past on how he was the caveman. He also tells of his adventures with Christopher Columbus. At a certain point, one of his colleagues calls another friend to come over and here John’s story. Once his friend gets there, they start to try to dispute by talking about the biological circumstances that would play into effect. Many people start to get upset by his claims. John then goes into telling his audience how he was Jesus and the techniques he used during his crucifixion to dodge the pain. He starts to continue with his religion tale until it starts to upset one of his colleagues and he is forced to “stop acting childish” and apologize. After a discussion of his colleagues thinking that he might be mentally ill, John claims to the group that it was “just a joke.” As everyone is starting to leave, John starts to give apologizes to each person as they leave. It almost seems like one of his colleagues actually believes his story as he is leaving. While almost everyone is leaving, John is talking to his girl, Sandy, about his pseudonyms that he used throughout the years. As he starts to explain to her one that he used almost 50 years ago, another colleague overhears and realizes that John is his father who left their family all those years ago. His friend ends up dying of a heart attack while John decides to stay with Sandy. — D.H.
The Man from Earth: I really did like this movie. It was expected. It started of kind of dry and I just knew from the synopsis that flashbacks would be involved but they weren’t and surprisingly weren’t needed. And for good reason, the story that was told was very immersing. This is a movie that exists completely based off of characters, acting, and dialogue. This is a different sort of science fiction film, there are no special effects, no action sequences, and no futuristic technology. A very, low budget film that asks you to use your imagination. It is almost the movie equivalent of a book; the entire movie consists of a man telling a story to his friends. I thoroughly enjoyed it from the beginning to the end. I have seen many, many movies and this was truly unique. Great story. It definitely makes you think. With any good movie I watch online, I had Wiki it. I learned that it was written by Jerome Bixby, who wrote the screenplay on his deathbed. So the mortality and religious questions the movie summons makes perfectly well placed sense. The Jesus thing was a great interjection too. While watching the movie you know that the timeless man had some hand in the history of man, but Jesus, that was a big step by the writer. The best part overall is just the simple fact that the intellectual minds that the story is told to are so disrupted and afraid that they become fearful of their friend and threaten to commit him in a psych ward. This is a well thought out movie and intended to make you think. — B.C.
I did not enjoy The Man from Earth. The premise that a man could live that long and experience so much is interesting but I did not see the point of making a whole film about it. The “twist” at the end that he was Dr. Gruber’s father was a little too much. The idea that he was 14,000 years old was strange enough; the coincidence that he was a co-worker’s father was unbelievable even if he really had lived for that long. The heart attack Dr. Gruber suffers at the end just didn’t feel right to me. Instead of having time to interact with his “father” and realize the consequences of the bizarre situation, he dies. It feels like a cop-out. I thought the idea that John was Jesus was also too much to stomach. I would have preferred to hear how an “everyman” lived for that long instead of a man who claims to be Jesus, a Sumerian, and a follower of Buddha. After all, the normal folks from these eras are the ones that get the least amount of study and attention. To the filmmakers’ credits, I did like John/Jesus’s explanation of the origins of his messages. Seeing John alive and well refutes the idea of a crucifixion and resurrection, and I can’t help but appreciate any film that does that. The script was bad and bland. The actors were not that great, either. — C.R.
The movie “The Man from Earth” takes place in a small multi-room cabin; which allows the film to focus on the intellectual banter between the characters. This was great, especially the way it was done both, because the film was a lower budget movie, and doing it any other way would have hindered the flow of the movie. The idea that there was no way of proving John’s story enthralled me, I tried asking myself how his age could be disproven and grew more involved with the story. I must admit the idea of Buddha teaching John and John attempting to re-teach the lessons really was the best part. The timing was a little “forced” plot wise but it shows how even the best ideas can be messed up by another person trying to re-teach them in a different environment. It shows that sometimes the material does not translate as well. I also enjoyed the way the movie has philosophical undertones, in two ways. First, the film asks some philosophical questions about time, belief, perception and shows both sides. Secondly, the film itself has the overarching question of believing, namely John’s entire story. But I have to take issue with the entire concept of this “revelation” during which John has invited his son, whom he has worked with for a decade (? What?) and knowing he has a bad heart, let it slip that he was his father. John had to have known that even speaking about those events that Will would put it together. I was left wondering if John and Sandy might go kill Dan in case he actually believed. — L.T.