The Man Who Fell to Earth

Nicolas Roeg, 1976

David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton

FROM ‘MARA, MARIETTA’
Intermezzo 3: Zora

̶  You must be the only tourist in the city. What are you doing here?
̶  Trying to forget a woman.
̶  I can help you.
̶  Why?
̶  Because I love your green eyes. Where did you get them?
̶  From an Irish sailor.
̶  Your hair’s not red.
̶  From a Dutch trader.
̶  Your skin’s not white.
̶  From the man who fell to Earth.

She takes my hand and holds it.

̶̶  Look, it’s like mine. I’m Armenian.
̶  I’m not.

Intermezzo 9: Siri

That evening, at her place, we improvised an eintopf and ate it while watching The Man Who Fell to Earth.

NICOLAS ROEG ON DAVID BOWIE AND THE RENDERING OF STRANGERHOOD

The lover’s oldest question is: ‘What are you thinking, darling?’, then ‘What are you really thinking?’ In that scene, Mary-Lou and Mr Newton had been together for a while, and though she thought that he was a bit strange and odd, she had no idea where he came from. Sure he was an alien, but he wasn’t a monster. She didn’t know that on his planet, it had been planned that he would come to Earth and be among humans, but that they didn’t get things quite right with his body. And so when she says that he can tell her anything, which in the human context means ‘You can tell me anything and I’ll still love you,’ and he shows her his method of making love—by exchanging bodily fluids on a grand scale—of course she recoils.

Candy Clark as Mary-Lou

Then afterwards, when she approaches him on the bed and he starts oozing again and she recoils again, then he goes back to being human and keeps the secret. And it interested me tremendously, especially with David Bowie. People said, he’s an extraordinary artist but—and producers were especially interested only in this one thing—can he act? He is Mr Newton. He’s a tremendous performer, he’s sung on stage in front of 20,000 people. But it suddenly struck me, when he told me that it was a very important step for him and asked what I wanted for the role, that the best thing I could tell him was that I didn’t know who Mr Newton was either. So I told him, ‘You’ll help me by not knowing either. Just do it, say the part’. And it was strange–it was better than acting. He was Newton. He may have been slightly clumsy, and somebody else might have been more together, but training would have stopped it. It wouldn’t have had the authenticity of the alien, without anything except who he was … So the alien does not appear to be alien, but is in fact more alien than if he’d had a big head.

 

Source: The Guardian, 3 June 2005