Dipan Kumar Rout

Living life between backspaces.

Profound Dialogues from Movies – Part II

The Man from Earth

Synopsis:

Every 10 years or so, John Oldman has to move on. No matter what he’s doing. No matter who he’s with. He has to pack up and leave, or there will be talk of him not aging.
John was born 14,000 years ago. He has not aged a day since he was 35. On this instance, he decides, on a whim, to tell his friends why he is leaving, turning an impromptu farewell-party into a mysterious and intense interrogation.
The only setting is in and around Oldman’s house, with the plot advancing through intellectual arguments between Oldman and his fellow faculty members.

Issues Explored:

  • Morality
  • Empirical evidence
  • Religious Faith

Characters:

  1. John Oldman
  2. Dan (mellow/chilled out anthropologist, quiet+smart)
  3. Harry (biologist, loud and strange yet endearing)
  4. Edith (older woman, devout Christian)
  5. Sandy (historian, John’s girlfriend)
  6. Art Jenkins (cool archeologist with a bad-ass bike)
  7. Linda Murphy (Art’s charming student)
  8. Will Gruber (old psychiatrist)

This movie has filled in me a sense of awe. A depth into the opinions and point of view of a person who has been living since the beginning of time. When you live so long you tend to see life, death, love and everything in between from a different perspective. Its difficult to choose out profound dialogues but let me state, the most impactful ones below:

On His Origins:
John: Well you know the background stuff, so I’ll make it brief. In what I call my first lifetime, I aged to about thirty-five. What you see. I ended up leading my group. They saw me as magical. I didn’t even have to fight for it. Then, fear came. And they chased me away. They thought that I was…stealing their lives away to stay young. I kept getting chased because I wouldn’t die, so I got the hang of joining new groups I found. I also got the idea of periodically moving on. We were semi-nomadic, of course, following the weather and the game we hunted. The first two-thousand years were cold. We learned it was warmer at lower elevations. Late glacial period, I assume.
We would look up at the sky and wonder. “There’s gotta be some big guys up there. What else made all this down here?”
At first I thought there was, uh, something wrong with me – maybe I was a bad guy for not dying. Then I began to wonder if I was cursed, or perhaps blessed. Then I thought maybe I had a mission.

On Where he came from:
Linda: Well, I don’t understand why you can’t remember where you’re from. Geography hasn’t changed. I learned that in-
Art: Professor Hansen’s tepid lectures. But you’re right.
John: Where did you live when you were five years old?
Linda: Little Rock.
John: Your mother, she took you to the market?
Linda: Mm-hmm.
John: What direction was it? From your house.
Linda: I-I don’t know.
John: How far?
Linda: Um, three blocks.
John: Were there any references that stuck in your mind?
Linda: Well, there was a gas station and a big field. I was told I could never go there alone.
John: And if you went back there today, would it be the same?
Linda: No. I’m sure it’s all different and built up.
John: Thus the saying: “You can’t go home again.” Because it isn’t there anymore. Picture it on my scale- I migrated through an endless flat space full of endless new things- Forests, mountains, tundra, canyons. My memory sees what I saw then. My eye sees highways, flyovers, urban sprawl, Big Macs under the Eiffel tower.
Early on, the world got bigger and bigger, and then…
Think what I’ve had to unlearn.

On His Travel:
Linda: Is this why all your students say your knowledge of history is…so amazing?
John: No, that’s mostly based on study. Remember, it’s one man, one place at a time, my solitary viewpoint of a world I knew almost nothing about.
John: Even yours. You got most of it right. Eventually I headed to the East. I’d grown curious about the world. I’d gotten the hang of going it alone, learning how to fit in when I wanted to.
Dan:: East. Towards the rising sun?
John: Yes. I thought it might be warmer there. That’s when I saw an ocean. The Mediterranean, probably. It was around the beginning of the Bronze Age, so I followed the trade routes from the East. Copper. Tin. Learning languages as I went. Everywhere, creation myths, new gods, so many, so different. I finally realized that it was…probably all hogwash.
So I was Sumerian for 2,000 years, then finally Babylonian under Hammurabi. Great man. And I sailed as a Phoenician for a time.
See, moving on had been easier as a Hunter-Gatherer…difficult when villages emerged. Tougher still in city states where authority was centralized. Strangers were suspect. It seemed as though I was always moving on.
I learned some new tricks- even faked my death a couple of times.
I continued east to India, luckily at the time of Gautama Buddha.
Art: Luckily.
John: Most extraordinary man I’ve ever known. He taught me things I’d never thought about before.
Harry: You studied… with the Buddha?
John: Until he died. He knew there was something different about me. I never told him.

On Knowledge:
John: I have ten degrees, including all of yours… Except yours, Will.
Harry: That makes me feel a trifle Lilliputian.
John: That’s over the span of 170 years. I got my biology degree at Oxford in 1840, so I’m a little behind the times. The same in other areas- I can’t keep up with the new stuff that comes along. No one can. Not even in their specialty.
Art: So much for the myth of the super-wise, all-knowing immortal.
Dan: I see your point, John. No matter how long a man lives, he can’t be in advance of his times. He can’t know more than the best of the race knows, if that- I mean, when the world learned it was round, you learned it.
John: It took some time. News traveled slowly before communications were fancy. There were social obstacles, preconceptions, screams from the church.
Art: Ten doctorates. That’s impressive, John. Did you teach them?
John: Some. You might have all done the same. Living 14,000 years didn’t make me a genius. I just had time.
Dan: Time. We can’t see it, we can’t hear it, we can’t weigh it, we can’t measure it in a laboratory. It’s a subjective sense of becoming what we are instead of what we were a nanosecond ago, becoming what we will be in another nanosecond.
The Hopis see time as a landscape, existing before and behind us, and we move- We move through it, slice by slice.
Linda: Clocks measure time.
Dan: No, they measure themselves. The objective referent of a clock is another clock.

On Death:
Will: Oh, you- You’ve talked a good deal about your extraordinary amount of living. What do you think of dying, John? Do you fear death?
John: Who wouldn’t?
Will: How did primitive man regard death?
John: Well, we had the practical concept. You know, we stopped, fell down, didn’t get up, started to smell bad, come apart.
Injuries we could understand- If someone’s insides were all over the ground.
Infections… They were, uh, mysterious.
Aging… The biggest mystery of all.
Will: You realized you were different.
John : Uh, longer to realize how I was different, to find a way to synthesize my experience into a view of myself. At first, I thought everybody had something wrong with them. They got old and they died, animals, too… but not me.
Will: You live simply.
John: I’ve owned castles, but why leave a lot if you’re always leaving? I have money.
Will: As one grows older, the days, weeks, months go by more quickly. What does a day or a year or a century mean to you? The birth-death cycle?
John: Turbulence. I meet someone, learn their name, say a word, they’re gone. Others come like waves. Rise, fall. Ripples in a wheat field, blown by the wind.
Will: Do you ever get tired of it all?
John: I get bored now and then. They keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over.
Will: Hey! Then you see yourself as separate from the rest of humanity.
John: I didn’t mean it that way. But of course…I am.

These are just part of the dialogues. You can download the entire script below.

Will try to cover some good dialogues from sequel of this movie later.

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