Man from Earth

Earlier this week, I read Graham Glass's description of the movie ''Jerome Bixby's Man from Earth'':

The Man from Earth looks like my kind of movie. It's shot entirely in a living room and revolves around a man who reveals to his colleagues that he has lived on Earth for the past 14,000 years. The rest of the movie is about how his colleagues try and disprove his confession via a question and answer session.

Well, it sounded like my kind of movie too so I ordered and, on Wednesday evening, it arrived.

It's a fascinating concept and, for the most part (see below), dealt with very well. It was written by the late Jerome Bixby, of original series Star Trek writing fame.

It was obvious early on that it wasn't shot on film—a lot of low-light noise, even more noticeable than Attack of the Clones, make it clear this was shot on video. IMDb says it was shot on prosumer-grade HDV, possibly an HVX200 judging by the single behind-the-scenes shot of the camera I saw on the film's website. But this was way better done than most films shot on video. Given that it was shot on video and all in one location, it must have been an amazingly cheap film to make.

The acting was generally good. The performances sometimes felt more like a play than a film (and I mean that as a negative—stage acting looks like over-acting on camera) and I wonder how much of that is because it was shot all in one location and probably only over a few days. The story would actually lend itself to a stage performance given that it is all in one location and entirely dialogue-driven.

The pacing was excellent. There was only one time where I started to lose interest and almost immediately, the drama of it picked up and I was hooked again.

I really don't want to say much about the content itself as it's fun just going on the journey. I will, however, raise one complaint.

The film presents a very controversial portrait of Christian origins, which in-and-of-itself doesn't bother me. What disappointed me, however, was that it was done in such a simplistic and naïve way. With just a little more homework, Bixby could have made it a tighter (and no less controversial) argument.

For example, he confuses the uncertainty of certain words of Jesus with the existence of multiple English translations, seemingly ignorant of the fact that the Greek underlying the translations is known and so the uncertainty has nothing to do with the English language translations. He could have expressed the uncertainty in a far more informed way by appealing even just to differences between the Synoptic Gospels let alone issues of textual and higher criticism.

I don't know enough archaeology, paleogeography or biological anthropology to know whether there were glaring errors in those areas, but I suspect not nearly as blatant.

It's a shame because, otherwise it's a nicely done film. I would recommend it to any fans of thought-provoking high concept science fiction. I didn't love it quite as much as Primer (although it's better acted) but it's up there. Certainly if you liked one, you'll like the other.

The original post was in the category: filmmaking but I'm still in the process of migrating categories over.

The original post had 3 comments I'm in the process of migrating over.