BFI Screen Epiphanies: The Man Who Fell To Earth

Nic Roeg’s (Don’t Look Now, Performance, Walkabout) hugely ambitious and imaginative 1976 film transforms a straightforward science fiction story into a rich kaleidoscope of contemporary America. Newton (David Bowie), an alien whose understanding of the world comes from monitoring TV stations, arrives on earth and uses his knowledge of advanced technology to build the largest corporate empire in the States with the aim of aiding his drought-stricken planet. But with worldly wealth comes decadence, and he becomes alienated by human emotions as he increasingly yearns for home. (This is a more poignant and bleaker ET- the Extraterrestrial!)

This film cemented Roeg’s reputation as an independent film maker of great talent and originality in the 1970s and it is shown here in the Director’s cut, restoring 20 minutes to the originally released version. It is as much a love story as sci-fi: like other films of Roeg’s, this explores private and public behaviour. Newton/Bowie becomes involved in an almost pulp-like romance with Mary Lou (Candy Clark), played out to the hits of middle America, that culminates with his ‘fall’ from innocence. Roeg, often displaying a dazzling technical skill, jettisons narrative in favour of thematic juxtapositions which work best when exploring the clichés of social and cultural ritual. Watch for the preternatural transformation of humanoid Newton back to alien, a sequence of power and seduction as played by the perfectly cast David Bowie.

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  • Gabriela

    Unfortunately can't make it on Monday. Have seen the film looooong time ago and would have loved to see the Director's cut. Hopefully there will be a next time.

    December 1, 2012

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