Sunday 5 November 2023

Research: The Man Who Fell to Earth and Uncertain Times

 When I was a teenager I loved film, and I wanted more than anything a video player.  My mother told me if I wanted it I could pay for it, so I did I worked in a supermarket three nights a week and Saturday and I did babysitting work.  The films I wanted to watch were French and German and Spanish and Chinese and they had to be ordered by post from a place in London that sent me VHS tapes.  I would wait until everyone was out and then I could enjoy these films.  One of these films was 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' directed by Nicholas Roeg and starring David Bowie.  

This film was released in 1976, and the movie was shot in New Mexico which gave the strange, uninhabited, and alien landscapes.  Singer describes the film as a sui generis classic which simply means 'of its own kind'  it certainly is a strange mix of styles and ideas.  The cinematography uses the light beautifully and Tony Richmond remembers that; 'I just love the way these anamorphic lenses flare, it’s beautiful, the halation. It was a sort of no-no at the time, lens flare, but it’s become a huge thing. We loved that and went for it. I think they were the Panavision C Series Anamorphic Lenses.'(Singer, 2019)  Halation is just when there is a kind of fog or glow around the original photographic image. The images of Newton's home planet were shot on White Sands Missile Range and the crew was not allowed to take anything in there that could not be pulled by a horse, as they were the first people to ever be allowed in. (Singer, 2019) Bowie playing an alien works incredibly well as he plays a kind of vulnerable yet detached character that comes from a planet that is abundant in gold but s running out of water and he comes to earth to find and transport water back to his home planet. 'Newton needs to establish utter mastery of Earth’s technology so that he use its water for his own drought-stricken planet.' (Bradshaw, 2016)and is forced to collaborate with humans to enable his plan to come to fruition. When I first watched this I thought Bowie was a beautiful and strange creature and that this film was really a work of art.  The scenes where he watches many different television screens to see the world are kind of a glimpse into the future as now we have this and we are addicted to those screens.

When I was thinking about the little short I would make for this project I thought of this film as it encompassed many of the ideas I was thinking of about being an outsider in an uncertain world, having a plan for life but the world itself has other plans that are not in our control. I learned through this research that a TV series had been made of this same story and with many of these things, I do abhor a remake! The reviewer Hadadi seems to agree with me stating; 'The Man Who Fell to Earth demands a level of patience that hasn’t yet paid off, and the inconsistencies in its narrative and characterizations don’t provide high hopes for the remaining six episodes, either.' (Hadadi, 2022).  The other reason I believe I was quite taken by the film, when I first saw it, was that it was strange and mysterious, it didn't quite make sense and it was quite slow-paced. Egbert writes; 'As science-fiction films go, this is a unique one. It focuses on character and implied ideas, not on plot and special effects. It’s very much a product of the 1970s, when idiosyncratic directors deliberately tried to make great films.' (Ebert, 2011)  perhaps I like the idea of making something out-of-time as I feel I am not made for this world, this world I barely recognise.


Bradshaw, P. (2016) The man who fell to earth review – a freaky concept album of a film, The Guardian. Available at: (Accessed: 05 November 2023). 

Singer, L. (2019) Scene by scene: My secrets of shooting David Bowie in the man who fell to Earth, British Film Institute. Available at: (Accessed: 05 November 2023). 

Hadadi, R. (2022) The man who fell to Earth doesn’t know where to land, Vulture. Available at: (Accessed: 05 November 2023). 

Ebert, R. (2011) The man who fell to Earth Movie Review (1976): Roger Ebert, The Man Who Fell to Earth movie review (1976) | Roger Ebert. Available at: (Accessed: 05 November 2023). 

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