VOD film review: The Man Who Fell to Earth
Ivan | On 16, Jan 2018
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Cast: David Bowie, Candy Clark, Rip Torn
Watch The Man Who Fell to Earth online in the UK: TPTV Encore / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Virgin Movies / Google Play / Sky Store
David Bowie always felt like he came from another world – and nowhere on screen was that better harnessed than Nicolas Roeg’s intriguing curio The Man Who Fell to Earth.
Ostensibly based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, the movie does away with most of the book’s plot, instead favouring images and atmosphere over story. The narrative, such as it is, follows Thomas Newton, an alien who crash-lands on Earth and struggles to find his way through human society in the 1970s.
The extra-terrestrial longs to phone home, as his planet has suffered from a severe drought and he has travelled to Earth as a potential source of water. And so he sets about using his advanced technological knowledge to put himself in a strong, rich position – amassing the money he needs to build a spaceship to get back home.
Our planet is presented as a civilisation built on corruption, wealth and capitalist corporations, and Roeg leans into the substances and sex of humankind’s existence – womanising, drinking and more are all on display, explicitly so. But if that graphic indulgence (particularly involving Candy Clark’s sweetheart receptionist Mary Lou and Rip Torn’s dubious college professor Nathan) emphasises the wayward feel of the narrative, Roeg and Paul Mayersberg’s script finds its strength in the way it contrasts that with Newton’s gentler character.
Indeed, Bowie’s the main reason to tune in here, bringing a lack of guile and a vulnerability to the screen that’s fascinatingly at odds with the enigmatic persona from his music career. He’s so well cast – and so magnetically unusual – in the role that you could almost believe the whole plot is based on him rather than any existing novel. Fragile and emaciated, he’s a waif of a figure who could plausibly blow away on the breeze at any moment, and a tragic ending for him seems inevitable. The result is a vivid, if occasionally frustrating, space odyssey – and that elusive, ethereal quality ultimately feels all too apt.
The Man Who Fell to Earth is available on TPTV Encore until 30th January 2022.