Monday, January 11, 2016
THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (Nicolas Roeg, 1976, UK)
Newton falls like the proverbial apple; a tree of knowledge offering a poisonous gift whose adverse reaction ensnares him in the garden of Earthly delights. Director Nicolas Roeg eschews science fiction formula and creates an art house film with a complex narrative, utilizing very few establishing shots to delineate time and place while disgorging surreal montage that create a lonely dreamlike atmosphere. He crosscuts between Newton and Dr. Bryce, a teacher whose sexual appetite devours his life, which foreshadows Newton’s downfall and betrayal.
Roeg, a master cinematographer himself, again teams up with Anthony Richmond (DON’T LOOK NOW) and together they capture the isolation and separation, both physiological and spiritually, of a stranger in a strange land, whose plan to save his world goes askew: homo superior dominated by the brute force of a government who tastes of the apple…but must destroy its seed. David Bowie is expertly cast as the phlegmatic alien, his disparate eyes and copper hair adjoined with his gently chiseled visage and contrasted with his firm resolution. The mysterious Thomas Newton hides behind his nomenclature and corporate assets; his true self eventually unmasked by the woman he loves and the man he trusts.
The opening scenes reveal shadow men that relentlessly stalk Newton, and this ambiguous conspiracy is eventually actualized without exposition: we must fit together the broken pieces and independently glean some internal consistency. Time seems subjective to Newton, as he never ages while the world passes quickly, his mistress and cohorts growing into old age while he remains the young non-American. He soon capitulates to the vices and bodily desires of his earthly bondage, a weapon that his captors use to control and conquer. Prodded, injected with drugs, experimented upon and abused in captivity, his usefulness expires and he outlives the warders, walking once again into anonymity.
His home world dying, he uses his remaining fortune to record a hymn to his family with the hope that the radio transmission will be received and understood: a hopeless goodbye, like Major Tom’s desperate plea.
Final Grade: (A)
Words Chosen by Alex DeLarge