The Truman Show

The last time I watched a Peter Weir film, it completely irked me because of how pretentious it was. Because of how bad this film, Fearless, was, it turned me off from wanting to see any of Weir's other films (Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show, etc). With the bad taste of Fearless gone, I thought I'd go ahead and watch The Truman Show as it's Weir's most critically-acclaimed film. Having finished the film, I can definitely forgive Weir for Fearless now, because The Truman Show is truly a fantastic film. Creative, humorous, and depicting a future that isn't too unrealistic, the film is a showcase of talent and inventiveness.

We follow Truman Burbank, a charming young man with a seemingly ordinary life. What Truman doesn't know, however, is that his daily life is being televised to the entire world and that his hometown is actually a manipulated environment, meant to capture all of Truman's movements, thoughts, and everyday blunders in a sitcom-style manner. Literally everyone in Truman's world, from the newspaper vendor to his wife, is a hired actor and only serve as reactionary elements to Truman's mundane actions. However, after a camera light nearly falls on Truman from the sky (or what he believes to be the sky), this seemingly ordinary man slowly begins to believe that he may not be as ordinary as he thinks.

It's impossible to talk about this film without talking about its concept. According to the film, the human race is slowly becoming more and more obsessed with controlled environments. There's nothing wrong with controlled environments in and of themselves, but, as the old saying goes, too much of anything has to be bad for you. In this film, we're presented with a man whose life is manipulated for discussion, observation, and even entertainment. Regardless of what you think of reality TV, it all comes back to the question of capability and execution. If we're capable of this with such-and-such technology, is it right/wrong to execute it simply because it can be performed? It's quite ironic that this film came out a year before Big Brother, a hit reality-show, was first released. As director Peter Weir himself said, "This was a dangerous film to make because it couldn't happen. How ironic."

The screenplay for this film is simply great. It's incredibly easy to fall in love with the charming character of Truman Burbank, who's presented as being the nicest, sweetest, and funniest guy on the block. This quickly-earned sympathy does marvels for the film, as we're instantly hooked into Truman's story, hijinks, and paranoid behavior. The way the film can just as easily make you laugh as it can pull your heartstrings is a showcase of great talent, which everyone in this film seems to have. The supporting cast, though nowhere near as lovable, still remain interesting and serve their purpose quite well.

The visuals were pretty interesting, though I don't recall being blown away by anything that was shown onscreen. I did, however, really enjoy the blurred framing that was used for the 'reality tv' cameras. It was very reminiscent of a silent film, and its use in the film worked very well - especially during the sequence when Truman's on the boat. It was also interesting how the frame would sometimes be out of focus or awkwardly placed, indicating that the cameras in Truman's world can't always get "the perfect shot".

Something interesting to note about this film is its use of religious and psychological symbolism. The religious symbolism is the most noticeable, as it's practically spelled out near the ending of the film, but the psychological aspects are a bit more hidden. Starting with the religious, it's interesting to note that the egotistical "director" of Truman's life is named "Christof". Obviously a take-off on the name of Christ, the film implies that man wants to play God; any man who so desires can never be God, simply being a "Christ rip-off" or "Christof". It's even easy to fall for Christof's deceit near the end, as he presents himself as omnipotent and all-powerful, having seen Truman's birth, first steps, first day of school, etc. As for the psychological elements, the film portrays the age-old 'rite of passage story - the story of a boy becoming a man. At first, Truman feels isolated, confused, and non-confrontational, as most teenage boys tend to feel. By the end of the film, however, we've seen Truman grow 'out of his shell', rejecting his background and proceeding to lead his own life, thus literally becoming a True-man.

If the film has any flaws, it's that the film loses some steam during the sequence when Christof "loses" Truman. It's suspenseful and demands attention, but it's a bit of a stretch to imagine a man surrounded by over 5,000 cameras being able to successfully stay hidden. I digress, though...

The Truman Show is a fantastic film through and through. With a great leading character, an inventive narrative, and some question-raising themes, the film is part intellectual, part comedic, and part dramatic, but all parts enjoyable.





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