The Man Who Fell To Earth

The Man Who Fell To Earth

classified 18

The Balance of Things: the Cinematic Imagination of Nic Roeg


Please note: This was screened in July 2019

Nicolas Roeg
David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark
136 mins, 1976, UK
Primary language

Despite being the fatalistic story of a crash-landed alien outsider and aid mission gone disastrously wrong, the stars were very much aligned for The Man Who Fell to Earth's meteoric rise to cult classic status.

With director Nicolas Roeg on-form after making Performance and Don't Look Now, and the presence of David Bowie in his first starring role (just as he was about to transition into his experimental and influential Berlin era), this stranger than science fiction tale was destined for its celestial spot in the oddball canon.

A post-Ziggy Bowie is perfectly cast as Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien who lands on earth and sets about building up a high-tech business empire in order to fund his mission of returning water to his drought-plagued home planet. Newton's plan is derailed by the influence of his temporary home as Roeg casts a sharp eye over a human society that begins to look increasingly alien. Initially distracted by an ill-fated romantic relationship that falls apart when his true identity is revealed by a treacherous colleague, Newton is imprisoned by the government and finally succumbs to a crippling alcohol addiction as his home planet withers and dies.

Bowie's controlled, other-worldly placidity in the lead role is hugely impressive, and Roeg's idiosyncratic exploration of the sci-fi genre has stood the test of time. Now gorgeously restored, Newton's inexorable downfall can be seen by audiences all over again.