I watched one of those thought provoking films the other night, The Man from Earth. It was a 2007 independent film written by late screenwriter Jerome Bixby. Bixby is best known for episodes he wrote for the Twilight Zone and Star Trek. He apparently finished the screenplay for The Man from Earth on his death bed in 1998.
The cool thing about The Man from Earth is that it is entirely comprised of dialogue between intellectual characters sitting around a living room by a fireplace. There is no action, no special effects and no nudity. By Hollywood standards that translates to no audience. Shoot, by my normal low standards that sounds like a snoozer.
I loved the film.
The premise of the film isn't new. A college professor is picking up and moving after ten years teaching at a school. His friends don't understand why. They ambush him at his home where he is packing up a pick up truck with his possessions that include what one professor identifies as a pretty darned good rip off of an original Van Gogh painting.
The main character then proceeds to tell his circle of friends that he moves every 10 years to prevent people from questioning why he never ages past 35. He then proceeds to tell them that he is 14,000 years old give or take a couple of decades. He goes on to tell them he was a Cro Magnon man who was driven away from his tribe when they couldn't get past the fact that they were getting old and dying and he wasn't.
Of course, all of the professor's friends think that he is pulling their collective legs or that he is a major nut job. He proceeds to describe being a student of Buddha, a crew member of Columbus' ships and a friend of Van Gogh. That doesn't help much.
I don't want to ruin the movie for any of you who want to see it, but the guy really freaks out his friends when he claims to be a major character out of the New Testament who later has a rock opera named after him by Anthony Lloyd Weber. One woman practically has a breakdown because, if he is telling the truth, it counters every religious belief system she had.
Okay the plot is a bit reminiscent of the Highlander (sans the action and bad acting), the dialogue is a bit too pat and the intellectual friends a bit too cerebral and glib, but the overall "make you think" factor of this film is pretty impressive. It presents a fairly practical look at immortality and reinforces the reality that coming clean about being Jesus is a sure ticket to the funny farm. As Jack Nicholson said in a movie some time ago, "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth."
I don't think anyone wants the truth if it means giving up something they have believed in for a long, long time. Even in this day of instant information and cameras everywhere capturing reality every second, most people don't believe what they see, read or hear. You can watch video clips of a politician's speech where he claims to be the Antichrist and 99 percent of the people who watch it won't believe it, especially when the politician's image consultants move in afterward and begin recreating what was said with carefully crafted messages and misdirection.
So god knows how many times Jesus or Buddha or L. Ron Hubbard has returned and been committed, ridiculed, discredited and locked up because no one really can believe the truth.
Now ain't that the truth?