People accept the reality of which they are given. For Truman Burbank, his reality is a beautiful city where no harm comes his way. Of course, it’s all fake and simply a Hollywood studio. But for 30 years of his life, Truman doesn’t know that. His mother is, well, his mother, because she told him so. And that wife of his doesn’t love him at all. It’s simply a really good acting gig. The same goes for his supposed best friend.
But why would this happen? One answer: Voyeurism. People are comforted by Truman’s presence. Viewers go to sleep knowing that he’s there. And as long as he’s there, they will be OK.
But what about Truman? Shouldn’t he be able to live his own life and not that of a script already written out for him?
And in that, The Truman Show takes shape. Director Peter Weir creates this world, a dome in Hollywood, where Truman goes about his daily business. Jim Carrey, who overacted his way into this plum role, is absolutely brilliant. The subtleties he brings to his character allow the audience in on his little secret — he’s figured it out. Well, he’s figured out something isn’t right.
And so the journey becomes the struggle between the producers and actors on the show and one man’s odyssey to find out what’s going on.
Above all, this is a statement film. These reality TV shows that flood our TV screens are the first step. Where will it go from here? Writer Andrew Niccoll wrote about a perfect genetic world in Gattaca and a perfect movie star in last year’s S1m0ne. But in 1998, his real gem came to life. A normal man trapped in a perfect existence and what he has to do to get out of it.
The final confrontation’s allusion to man speaking to God is no accident. Except Truman desperately wants to escape Christof’s Eden.
The film was shot on location in beautiful Seaside, Fla., where all the houses look the same and the Gulf of Mexico is gorgeous. The location was picked for that very reason. The area is so serene that, even as a tourist, you don’t want to leave. All of this is designed to keep Truman.
This is a story about escape. It resonates with almost every viewer, because at one time or another, we’ve probably all thought that the world was centered around us and there were cameras watching us. Eventually, the paranoia subsided, and we moved on, realizing we are nobodies just like everyone else.
That’s why Truman’s plight is so compelling. And it’s a beautiful thing to watch when he finally escapes. In this film, the viewer is manipulated to root for the protagonist and his cause to create his own life and make his own decisions.
In the end, it’s about gaining freedom and independence — certainly not a new theme in film entertainment — but perhaps here, it is the most interesting twist to come along in some time.
Contact Will Albritton at firstname.lastname@example.org