9.The Man from Earth (2007)
The Man from Earth is a 2007 American drama science fiction film written by Jerome Bixby and directed by Richard
Schenkman. It stars David Lee Smith as John Oldman, the protagonist. The screenplay was conceived by Jerome Bixby in
the early 1960s and completed on his deathbed in April 1998. The film gained recognition in part for being widely
distributed through Internet peer-to-peer networks, which raised its profile. The film was later adapted by Schenkman
into a stage play of the same name.
The plot focuses on John Oldman, a departing university professor, who claims to be a Cro-Magnon
(or Magdalenian caveman) who has secretly survived for more than 14,000 years. The entire film is set in and around
Oldman’s house during his farewell party and is composed almost entirely of dialogue. The plot advances through
intellectual arguments between Oldman and his fellow faculty members.
The film begins with Professor John Oldman (David Lee Smith) packing his belongings onto his truck, preparing to
move to a new home. His colleagues show up to give him an impromptu farewell party: Harry (John Billingsley),
a biologist; Edith (Ellen Crawford), an art history professor and devout Christian; Dan (Tony Todd), an anthropologist;
Sandy (Annika Peterson), a historian who is in love with John; Dr. Will Gruber (Richard Riehle), a psychiatrist;
Art (William Katt), an archaeologist; and his student Linda (Alexis Thorpe).
As John’s colleagues press him to explain the reason for his departure, he slowly, and somewhat reluctantly, reveals
that he is a prehistoric caveman who has lived for more than 14 millennia, and that he relocates every ten years to
keep others from realizing that he does not age. He begins his tale under the guise of a possible science-fiction
story, but eventually stops speaking in hypotheticals and begins answering questions from a first-person perspective.
His colleagues refuse to believe his story. John continues his tale, relating how he was a Sumerian for 2000 years,
a Babylonian, and eventually went east to become a disciple of Gautama Buddha. He claims to have been given a chance
to sail with Christopher Columbus (admitting that at the time he still believed the earth was flat) and to have
befriended Van Gogh (one of whose original paintings he apparently owns, a gift from the artist himself).
In the course of the conversation, each of John’s colleagues questions his story based on knowledge from his or
her own academic specialty. Harry, the biologist, struggles with how biology could allow for the possibility of a
human being living for so long. Art, the archaeologist, questions John about events in prehistory. He exclaims that
John’s answers, though correct, could have come from any textbook. Will, the psychiatrist, questions if John feels
guilt for outliving everyone he has ever known and loved, and threatens John with a gun (which is later revealed to
have been unloaded) before temporarily leaving. John then learns from the group that Will’s wife had died the previous
day after a long illness.
The discussion turns to the topic of religion. John mentions that he is not a follower of a particular religion;
though he does not necessarily believe in an omnipotent God, he does not discount the possibility of such a being’s
existence. Pressed by the group, John reluctantly reveals that in trying to take Buddha’s teachings to the west,
into the eastern Roman Empire, he became the inspiration for the Jesus story. After this revelation, emotions in the
room run high. Edith begins crying. Will demands that John end his tale and give the group a sense of closure by
admitting it was all a hoax, and threatens to have John involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation should
he refuse to do so. John appears to ruminate over his response before finally “confessing” to everyone that his
story was a prank.
John’s friends leave the party with various reactions: Edith is relieved; Harry indicates an open mind. After everyone
but Will and Sandy has left, Will overhears John and Sandy’s conversation, which suggests the story was true after all.
John mentions some of the pseudonyms he has used over the years, and Will realizes one was his father’s name.
Shocked to realize the ageless man is his own father, Will suffers a heart attack and dies. After Will’s body has been
taken away, Sandy realizes this is the first time John has seen one of his grown children die. John wordlessly gets in
his truck and starts to drive to an unknown destination. Then he stops and waits for Sandy, who walks over to the truck.
The entire film is set in and around Oldman’s house during his farewell party and is composed almost entirely of
dialogue. The plot advances through intellectual arguments between Oldman and his fellow faculty members and the
conversation stretches from the beginning of time to the present date. This film is a must watch just to see how
that conversation goes.