"What if a man from the Upper Paleolithic survived until the present day?"The Man from Earth
is a 2007 film about a group of college professors and a grad student sitting together in a cabin during an intimate going-away party. They contemplate the plausibility of their departing professor friend's story: witnessing thousands of years of human progress first-hand.
The professor, who calls himself John Oldman
, reveals that he's secretly 14,000 years old and a former caveman. The movie revolves around the characters dissecting John's claims about him being that old, and especially historical happenings
he claims to have been at and people
he claims to have met or even been. To make it all the more interesting, every character is a teacher at a certain subject that sooner or later is relevant or brought up (there's an archaeologist, a psychologist, a Christian literalist and a few more), and everyone deals with each new part of the story from John in different ways.
One of the most down-to-earth depictions of a seemingly immortal man in movie history.
The movie hit it big on BitTorrent sites in early November 2007. The producer squealed with glee.
This reaction was one of the earliest admissions by a film director or film producer that "illegal" downloads can be good for getting the word out for a work.
Pretty much every trope related to perceived immortality is brought up and discussed. It's very interesting for anyone that ever thought about immortality to watch. Do note though, that the movie is dialogue and nothing else. There's only one set, a bunch of characters and their interactions. And a marvelous script.
Tropes used in this film:
- Actually Not a Vampire: When John stopped aging, his tribe began to believe he was stealing their life-force, thus necessitating his need to move on every ten years to avoid arousing suspicion. Harry jokingly theorizes that John may have been the pre-historic origin of the vampire myth
- The Ageless: John is not immune to illness, but since he survived so long and recovered from any injury (he doesn't scar) and illness, he seems to be truly ageless.
- Agent Mulder: Dan, the anthropologist, is the first one of the professors ready to accept John's story, mostly because there's no way to prove nor disprove it and he's all ready for a thought experiment. Later, he grows even more enthusiastic. Needless to say, he's pretty pissed off when John "reveals" he was just making things up.
- Been There, Shaped History: John is Jesus, even though it's all pretty much a big misunderstanding. He also met Van Gogh and Buddha, and claims to have had the opportunity to sail with Christopher Columbus. But John also mentions that aside from those, it'd be incredibly difficult for him to know many historical people, as he is just one man in one place at any given time.
- Contemporary Caveman: Subverted, as he blends in perfectly, out of necessity. He knows how to use a cell phone, for example.
- Conversed Trope: The backbone of the entire movie.
- The Drifter: John says he moves on every ten years when people start to notice that he doesn't appear to age.
- Exposition of Immortality: This film is essentially, entirely about this trope. It consists of an immortal character telling people all about the things he's done, seen and experienced down the ages and their reactions to it. Oldman even lampshades this with his comment about people hanging onto objects from thousands of years ago being "absurd."
- The Fog of Ages: John only remembers "the ups and downs" and has forgotten most of his ancient life. He also mentions that he uses archaeology to try to understand aspects of his life that he's forgotten over time or to clarify why certain events he was witness to happened as they did.
- God Test: Most of the story is built upon his friends' attempts to give him one of these, which he explains that he cannot (or simply will not) do. Then he tells them that the whole story was only a story, and they go on their ways. He accidentally reveals himself to be Gruber's father at the end, thereby completing the God Test only for Gruber and Sandy, nearby. Dan's belief is unknown, but he is last shown in a contemplative mood, after an ambulance speeds past him towards the house.
- I Have Many Names: John naturally varied his name throughout history. Still, it's always been something similar to John.
- Immortality Immorality: Discussed, and averted. John was taught directly by the Buddha, who sensed something special about him, and later John brought the Buddha's teachings to Israel, where it was warped into what is now the New Testament. John reports being very disappointed with how nobody in modern times applies the main lesson.
- Living Forever Is Awesome: John may get bored on occasion, but he seems content with life.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: John, unwittingly mentioning his 60-years-ago name in front of Gruber, who recognizes him as his father. He then confirms Gruber's mother's name and dog's name.
- Mayfly-December Romance: Discussed. John tells Sandy that he feels fondness and attraction to her, but he's gotten over love too many times. He could only promise 10 years, his habitual "moving on" time-frame. He moved on from Gruber's mother 60 years ago, who maintained that John abandoned them.
- No Such Thing as Wizard Jesus: Averted.
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Mostly averted. In his long lifetime, John has acquired ten advanced degrees, but he points out that, like any typical person, he can't keep up with the advances in that many fields, so his old degrees don't mean very much now.
- Parental Abandonment: Discussed by the psychologist Gruber as a possible cause of emptiness in John's life. The end of the movie reveals that John abandoned him and his mother.
- Plot Tumor: Once religion comes into the discussion all the other aspects of how John has lived so long, his experiences etc, get crowded out of the plot.
- Punny Name: John Oldman.
- Really Fourteen Thousand Years Old: John never aged beyond 35 or so.
- Seen It All: In a limited sense. Being in only one place at any given time and having to keep a small identity means John couldn't meet too many historical figures. But he did meet Van Gogh, Beethoven, Columbus, the Buddha, and some others, and lived through the Black Plague.
- The whole film strongly resembles the conversation from H. G. Wells' The Time Machine. It's quite fitting.
- When Harry suggests John take lab tests:
I'm leery of labs. Afraid I might go in and stay for a thousand years while cigarette-smoking men
try to figure me out.
- Dan saying he's going home to watch some Star Trek to restore his sanity is a reference either to actor Tony Todd's frequent roles on the show, and/or writer Jerome Bixby's writing of several well-regarded episodes
- Speech-Centric Work
- There Is Another: John thinks that there have might have been another person who was immortal. He connected with him for a while in the 17th Century, and might have seen him out of the corner of his eye in a train station a couple of hundred years later.
- Time Dissonance: John describes the meeting of people as like ripples in a wheat field blown by the wind.
- Undead Tax Exemption: Averted. When villages and city-states emerged, moving around became more difficult. He spent a year incarcerated in Belgium for forging government documents.
- Unreliable Narrator: John starts out with the disclaimer that he is just pitching this for a science fiction novel. The group slowly learns to trust him, then all suspension of disbelief is shattered when he's pushed into revealing it was a hoax. In the end though, John's story is confirmed.
- Unwanted False Faith: John didn't intend to be seen as a miracle man, born of a virgin, the son of God. Various legends were falsely attributed to him, as was the tendency of the time.