Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Man from Earth: A Review

I've watched a plethora of films the past few months that I wouldn't necessarily Netflix on my own. One of the more gripping titles is Man from Earth (2007) the premise of which is not one I would have found intriguing before. Good thing I am allowing myself to be influenced these days, well, up to a certain point at least.
This film moved me.
What makes it particularly exquisite is the way it plays out in the setting of academia to which open-mindedness and acceptance of ideas is supposedly endemic.

It's hard to reveal fundamental truths to people. We often say we want to know these said truths but, when it comes down to it, we're happier believing untruths. Untruths are easier to process than, say, "Hi, I'm a caveman. I'm 14000 years old, I used to hang with Buddha and Jesus even though now I'm a college prof." or "you don't want to know how much I have in retirement funds" (the latter is my contribution to the script).

The caveman, appropriately named, John Oldman, informs his university colleagues over a farewell party that every 10 years or so, when people start to notice he does't age, he moves on. One thing the rest of the people around him have in common is the fact that they are not impervious to the effects of time. That rascal has its grips on everyone. Everyone but John, that is. Moving on is noble. Moving on is what courage is made out of. Moving, which is very much an epithet for life, his life, is what John knows best.

My favorite part in the film has to be when Art tells John that what he has revealed to his colleagues, i.e., that he's about 14000 years old, simply offends common sense. To Art's point, John says: "So does Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, that's the way nature works." Yes, nature doesn't care about politesse and norms and keeping up with etiquette and blah, blah, blah.

What this film tackles best is not just evolutionary biology or mythologized culture. What it does most dexterously is raise the question of question raising when it comes to knowledge and artificial cognition. Academia, generally speaking, is one arena in which critical thought and question asking should be not only ubiquitous, they should be the lingua franca. And questioning the status quo is not just an acceptable way to combat boredom, it is the way to add to systematized knowledge.

Shortsightedness, alas, is not a foreigner in academic circles. Quite often it reigns supreme. Who truly believes John's 'truth' anyway? Ok, Sandy perhaps, but she's majorly biased as she is in love with John so who's to take her motivations seriously, anyway? I won't reveal the ending of the film as, well, some people don't share my lack of belief in plot. The ending, however, plays quite well with the westernized notion of love/attachment and our belief that we matter and time somehow applies to everyone else but us. We will live forever, of course.

Do watch this. I cannot believe that I didn't know of this when it first came out but am glad I got schooled.

1 comment:

jr said...

i wondered about this when it came out and i missed it, too. catching it soon. thx.