“We accept the reality of the world we’re presented with.”
The Truman Show
The Truman Show is a film for everyone who’s ever been appalled, disgusted or mildly horrified by the depths to which reality TV can sink. It follows Truman Burbanks, a small-town insurance salesman who is the unwitting star of a television show broadcast live, 24 hours a day, to a waiting world. His world is a lie, and he doesn’t even know it – until one memorable day when a spotlight labelled “Sirius” falls from the sky.
You can’t go far wrong with a premise like that.
You especially can’t go far wrong when you cast Jim Carrey, he of the Scary Face, as Burbanks, a man seeing his whole world – the only world he has ever known – collapsing about his ears. Mania, paranoia, self-doubt – these are things Carrey does very well, without letting those weirdly disturbing facial expressions descend into farce, a la A Series of Unfortunate Events. I suppose it’s a film that refuses to give us a hero who knows how to say the right things at the right time with the right amount of gravitas. It’s a film that puts “reality” – or realism – at the centre of its story, instead of some badass character who always has the right quip on the tip of his tongue. (I’m looking at you, Roland Deschain.) Truman is a sort of Everyman.
And all of this is thrown into sharp relief by Ed Harris’ brilliant but creepy Christof, creator of the show, a man who’ll go to any lengths to get good television and who truly believes that this is a worthwhile, a noble occupation. In one crucial scene – a scene which effectively involves manipulating Truman’s emotions – we see him conducting his film crew with a kind of rapture on his face, a human playing God. It’s terrifying.
I liked this film very much (can you tell?). I liked the scarily saccharine colouring of that fake-perfect town, the Gattaca-esque score which contrasts with the apparent comedy of Carrey’s position, the sheer apocalyptic size of Christof’s operation (the dome containing the “set” for the show can be seen from space). It’s scary and sinister and claustrophobic, but it also manages to be hopeful and meaningful as well.
It’ll also make you paranoid, but there you are.
PS. Today is March 25 – happy Fall of Sauron Day, everyone!