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The Man Who Fell to Earth

Nicolas Roeg
UK 1976 / 139’
Don’t Look Now Bad Timing

Everyone has felt this way at one time or another: completely alienated, like you're from another planet. Loneliness, the inability to fit it, and alienation-recurring themes in Roeg's work-are taken on this time in the format of science fiction and embodied by the wonderful David Bowie. "I didn't want an actor for this role," said the director years later. "But rather someone who was unique." He saw Bowie in a documentary about the singer's American tour, in which Bowie explained that he felt like a fly floating in a carton of milk: "I'm a foreign body. I absorb everything around me." His slim body, alabaster skin, orange hair-Bowie later explained that his physical features were due to his cocaine addiction. And The Man Who Fell to Earth is also, among other things, a film about addiction. The protagonist, Thomas Jerome Newton, lands on Earth, with a plan to take water back to his dried-up planet. Thanks to his unprecedented abilities, he develops inventions that make him rich, and the money he earns is meant to help him accomplish his mission and return to the family he left behind in a distant solar system. Earthly pleasures like television, sex, and alcohol slowly turn him into a lifetime prisoner on our planet. Astonishing editing brings out new meaning from juxtaposed scenes; a mixed-up chronology, with the past breaking through the surface of the present; unusual special effects and an aura of melancholy enveloping the entirety of this fantastic world: this sci-fi film gives us insights into one of the most important conflicts in our world. When our identity contradicts our lifestyle, and words-instead of making it easier-completely prevent us from expressing our true feelings and needs.


Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, 1977 - Best Actor (David Bowie)

Nicolas Roeg

Born in 1928, Nicolas Roeg is one of Britain's most original filmmakers: a director with passion who tears down the order of the classical narrative, a master of editing and an outstanding stylist. Probing with his camera deep into our obsessions, tormenting memories, unhealed collective and individual wounds and sexual fantasies, he broke down the on-screen division between past and present, proving - in a particularly brilliant way - that cinema is a time capsule. While struggling for years with rejection and being misunderstood, Roeg consistently followed the path of an outsider, not only setting his films outside Great Britain (in Australia, the Seychelles, Vienna), but also happily working with artists associated with counter-cultural rebellion (David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Art Garfunkel). Films that came to be appreciated a bit too late, such as PerformanceDon't Look Now, WalkaboutThe Man Who Fell to Earth and Bad Timing, are iconic works: visually stunning, engaging, provocative fairy tales for adults.

Selected filmography

1970 Performance

1971 Walkabout

1973 Nie oglądaj się teraz / Don’t Look Now

1976 Człowiek, który spadł na ziemię / The Man Who Fell to Earth

1980 Zmysłowa obsesja / Bad Timing

1983 Eureka

1985 Z przymrużeniem oka / Insignificance

1988 Tor 29 / Track 29

1990 Wiedźmy / Witches

Cast & Crew

director Nicolas Roeg
screenplay Paul Mayersberg (based on Walter Tevis' novel)
cinematography Anthony B. Richmond
editing Graeme Clifford
music John Phillips, Stomu Yamashta
cast David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark, Buck Henry
producer Michael Deeley, Si Litvinoff, John Peverall, Barry Spikings
production British Lion Film Corporation, Cinema 5
sales Tamasa
language English
colouration colour