Neil deGrasse Tyson calls The Quiet Earth one of the greatest science-fiction films ever made.

Why is there life to begin with? How did ordinary matter become the bizarre matter that dances into organisms that seem to have only one final purpose: to become more organisms? To get closer to the heart of these questions, it is better to watch a B movie like The Quiet Earth, which was made in 1985, than a serious art-house film like Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. Malick's film has a scene that shows the birth of the universe, the expansion or invention of space, the quantum ripples in whose grooves the galaxies were formed. We then see the formation of the earth, the development of life in its oceans, the arrival of land animals, the rise of the dinosaurs, and so on. This story of our earth actually has scientific validity.

Nothing in The Quiet Earth holds any water scientifically. There is some scientific experiment in New Zealand that disrupts something cosmic, and somehow those who were about to die at the moment an event related to the experiment occurred lived and those who were alive all died. Three of these survivors meet. One is a scientist, another is a young misty woman with fiery red hair, and another is a tall and handsome Maori man. The men fall in love with the woman. The woman has sex with both men. Each of the men wants the woman for his own. This is the end of the world.

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And it has more bad science. Another crazy cosmic event happens. And we enter another world whose gray sky is filled by another planet that has rings like Saturn.

Yet The Quiet Earth, directed by a New Zealander who made a number of B movies in the 1980s, gets closer to the mystery of life than The Tree of Life. Indeed, the famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson calls The Quiet Earth one of the greatest science-fiction films ever made. Its beauty and its profundities are all accidental. One could never repeat an effort like The Quiet Earth; it stands alone in a universe that seems to be itself completely an original. But you could have hundreds, if not thousands, of The Tree of Life. It turns out that the weirdest flowers and shrubs grow best in the soil of B movies. This weirdness comes very close to the way we sense that life is itself very weird. If there is a god, he/she will be much closer to a B-movie director than a philosopher king.