The Truman Show is a film about the infringement by the media groups into the private lives of celebrities and about how such interference causes disruptions such as what happened with Princess Diana. It can also be seen as an intrusion by the media into the life of the common man just as is revealed in shows such as Jerry Springer and Oprah that reveal the life of common people while probing into almost every detail of their private lives. The film clearly portrays that with the kind of media that we have today, people cannot lead a private life. This paper will examine and analyze different aspects of the film in regard to its production details, profitability, performance, genre comparisons, and application to auteur theory, plot, music, and symbolism.
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The Truman Show was released in 1998 and is essentially a science fiction comedy and drama, being directed by Peter Weir and produced by Scott Rudin. The producer had purchased the script from the writer Andrew Niccol for $ 1 million and Paramount Pictures became the production company. The film was budgeted at $80 million and the director searched several locations before finalizing on Universal Studios for most parts of the story’s settings while a master-planned community called Seaside in Florida was chosen for the majority of the shooting. Paramount pictures devised a marketing strategy for the film such that it opened in the entire United States on June 5, 1998, and grossed earnings of $31,542,121 on the first weekend. The film was a total success and grossed a total of $264,118,201 as earnings and became the 11th most successful film of 1998. The film became a success primarily because of the unique marketing strategies applied by Paramount Pictures and received several nominations at the 56th Golden Globe Awards, 71st Academy Awards, The Saturn Awards, and the 52nd British Academy Awards (The Truman Show, 2009).
There are many films that have similar stories whereby the public follows the life of a given person by way of live shows, but the Truman Show was the first of its kind and in this sense, it becomes a classic of the genre. Although the story is not mind-boggling in portraying a world that is built to relay a live soap twenty-four hours of the day, the main character is the only person who is ignorant about all this being a frame-up. In the movie, Truman had no choice since his life was coordinated and orchestrated to the extent that he had no discretion about what friends he could have and whom he could get married with. He was throughout his life unaware of being stuck in a protected cage. This is the essence of the story which is portrayed as being under the constant watch of the media.
The Truman Show has resonated as being more than just a reproving story. Despite the grasping human efforts of constructing superficial prototypes, the movie has developed an invincible thesis of prototypes that play their respective roles. The idea of the movie is to make the active audience aware that even if the influential elite makes attempts to create realities for them, their souls would lead them to the most appropriate path. Peter Weir is an important and innovative auteur who has worked within the boundaries of Hollywood whereby his films such as The Truman Show, Fearless, Dead Poets Society, and Witness fit in perfectly within the framework of auteur theory.
The auteur theory is amply demonstrated in the works of Peter Weir in terms of the themes, motifs, and psychological analysis that are used in the plotting of the characters in these films. Jonathan Rayner (2004) has said about Weir’s films that they are distinct and creative and maintain the consistency that clearly speaks about the grand narratives and world views. In narrating his viewpoint on the director being an auteur filmmaker, Rayner has maintained that The Truman Show distinctly identifies with the themes of freedom and repression as expressed in the films Fearless, Dead Poets Society and Witness. These films have commonalities in identifying with issues relating to youth and virtuousness in relation to disenchanted knowledge, culture clashes, and the celebrations in regard to the unpredictable and unique overwhelming personal experiences. Such similarities in the films made by Weirdo establish him as an auteur.
Most of the film is set in a town that is mostly engaged in running continuous television shows. All the people in this town are either actors or part of the movie team except the main character Truman Burbank who is portrayed as being unaware about living in a reality that is construed and filmed for others entertainment. The main characters are suggestive of having family relations or friendships with Truman. In fact, Truman was selected from amongst six unwanted kids to become a TV star. A huge studio was built and named Seahaven which became the artificial town in which Truman lived. The entire studio in being enclosed made it possible for the crew, directors, and producers to control and keep track of every aspect of the environment that Truman lived in, while each of his movements was under close scrutiny.
The plot reveals that Truman has to be prevented from escaping and discovering the truth behind this superficial world and as a precaution, his father is killed in a manipulated boat accident so that Truman is always scared of water. Since Seahave is made to appear as an island, Truman’s fear of water removes the risk of his escaping and although he is depicted as having a wife named Meryl, Truman develops intimacy with a female actor named Sylvia who is taken away from the cast after being found to be explaining to Truman the artificial existence that he was being made to go through. However after thirteen years, of accidentally stumbling on some studio equipment, Truman does realize the impractical life that he is leading and attempts to escape from Seahaven (Birgit Wolz, 2009).
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But Truman, in his quest for truth and escape, finds a lot of obstacles which include a nuclear meltdown that is nonexistent, abrupt collapsing of the transport systems, maneuvered traffic jams, and the re-emergence of his dead father. In desperation to get his freedom, Truman is able to get rid of his fear of water and in the face of a superficially made up hurricane in the ocean he ultimately, albeit by accident, reaches the boundary of the made-up realities in piercing through the painted sky on the inside of the internal dome wall. While he walks by the periphery of the ocean, he finds a door and walks through it only to see Christof telling him from the clouds about the truth and his artificial existence. Christof tries to influence Truman into staying back by telling him that the real world is equally untruthful, but at this point, Truman bids farewell to the audience and steps into the real world. While doing so he is cheered by millions who comprise the audience, which also includes Sylvia who is seen leaving her home to be reunited with Truman.
The makers of the film have worked out a cautiously created lesson for the viewers which has a lot of metaphors and symbols in questioning the perceived realities in regard to overcoming fear, seeking truth, and self-determination. All that is taken as reality in the film is actually an edited version which is filtered as reality. The world is perceived by thinking of our ears and eyes as being a microphone and camera. Reality is not witnessed directly but through an inner movie that is made to exist within our minds and which is of course not reliable. The inner movie is played as a story about who we are and about the world that surrounds us. In essence, most of these beliefs and stories are framed in the mind in childhood as being responses to the realities that surround us and as we grow such beliefs prove to be inaccurate reflections as compared to the present realities.
Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank who is selected out of six unwanted babies and is the first child to be adopted legally by any corporation. Truman is revealed as being unaware of the broadcast of his daily life and works in an insurance company. He has a beautiful wife and ultimately realizes that all that he witnesses and experiences is not real after all. Laura Linney plays the role of Hannah Gill and Meryl Burbank, Truman’s wife. She works as a nurse in the hospital and in keeping with the show’s objective of product promotions, is regularly seen showing off the items that she purchases frequently. She is portrayed with the goal of acting as Truman’s wife and bearing a child from him. Noah Emmerich acts as Marlon, best friend of Truman ever since they were both children. Marlon works as an operator for vending machines in a company called Goodies and has promised Truman that she would never lie to him. Ed Harris plays the character of Christof who is the creator of the Truman Show. Christoff is depicted as always being sincere about the program in taking personal pains to ensure that everything moves in order. Natasha McElhone acts as Sylvia, who becomes romantically inclined with Truman while Brian Delate plays the role of Walter Moore who is portrayed as Truman’s father. Holland Taylor acts as Alanis Montclair who is the mother of Truman.
The inventive and creative music for the movie was created by Burkhard Dallwitz who was given the job after Peter Weir was much impressed with his abilities. Some parts of the music and soundtrack have been composed by Philip Grass who also appears in the movie momentarily as a studio performer and composer. The movie depicts a mix of far-reaching orchestrations and percolating simplicity that instills the viewer in an atmosphere of legend and Apocrypha.
The Truman Show is in essence a comedy relating to romantic dreamers and to the tradition that the real world is a sham in touching and shaking the viewer so that the world looks entirely different to him after the movie is over. The movie is about the victory of a simple person.
Birgit Wolz, The Truman Show, Web.
Jonathan Rayner, The Films of Peter Weir, 1999, Cassell.
The Truman Show, Web.