The Truman Show

Essential Viewing

When I mentioned to people that I’d never seen ‘The Truman Show’ before, their usual reflex was to react in shock

Emma Louise Hague

When I mentioned to people that I’d never seen ‘The Truman Show’ before, their usual reflex was to react in shock. After all, how had I not seen it before? ‘The Truman Show’ has achieved the status of an ‘everybody has seen this at least once’ film, joining the ranks of other celebrated titles such as ‘Toy Story’ or ‘The Shawshank Redemption’.

‘The Truman Show’ follows the life of the titular main character (and unknowing television enigma) Truman Burbank. The film's central focus is on Truman's existentialist journey as he finds out that everything he’d ever thought to be real-life was fodder for other people’s entertainment- and that he was the most valuable aspect of that fodder. We as viewers are made strikingly aware of how we contribute to this: the cinematography is mainly co-ordinated through well-placed ‘hidden cameras’ and watching the intimate parts of Truman's life through these angles feels uncomfortable and invasive. And yet we still watch, self-aware and completely captivated with the detangling of a man’s life.

Although fictional, ‘The Truman Show’ highlights many problems that were perhaps just beyond its time. The popularization of reality TV after this film was released, the invasive nature of social media and the increasing nature of government surveillance are all aspects of our normal life which are criticised by the film, for good reason. Nothing good results from this much attention being put on the personal aspects of one's life. Sometimes someone's personal life can become inseparable from what the public thinks they're entitled to see, an idea heavily explored in ‘The Truman Show’.

The scene where Christof explains how Truman was the ‘first baby adopted by a corporation’ was on my mind for days after I finished watching the film. Not only because it’s a shocking and bleak revelation about the protagonists' past, but because it runs parallel to the very real exploitation of actors, young and old, throughout film history. ‘Truman’ represents an issue that many people refuse to acknowledge about the actors themselves. How oftentimes the very true murky experiences actors have in the industry are glossed over and hidden from us, much like how the actors around Truman try to gaslight him into believing their facade. I’m thankful that this film exists to make people think about the state of Hollywood in a much more critical manner.

‘The Truman Show’ has one of the most unusual and manipulative takes on cinematography I have seen. The audience views the world through the specifically nurtured lens that the (fictional) director Christof wants you to see it through. Truman's interaction with the cameras around his world brings the audience into the film; as he becomes more aware of the gaping holes in his world, he works his way around the viewer, 'destroying' the cinematography as he unravels. Particularly interesting moments where this unravelling occurs are when Truman runs through the set of his town, causing multiple cameras to constantly flick through to ‘search’ for him. As well as the scene where Truman escapes the surveillance of the town by taking off his ring (another hidden camera) and liberating himself from the stare of the audience.

The decision for the final shot of the film to be Truman leaving this world is a bittersweet choice. We are unable to ever find out how Truman's story ends or if he ever reunites with Lauren, the rogue background character intent on freeing him from the televised cage he lives in. However, I feel that this was an intentional, and well made, choice on the director’s end. We are unable to see Truman's life outside of the glamorised image of him that we are fed, but were we ever truly entitled to see his life in the first place?

Overall, I enjoyed this film. As you watch, there's an odd sense of interactivity with the movie, from the way you can see both the 'artificial' world and the 'real' world side-by-side. You also become heavily empathetic for Truman. Injustices he isn't even aware of are glaringly obvious to the audience, and his liberation at the end of the film feels like a victory for us too. Although I am slightly hypocritical in saying this, I would genuinely recommend for people to see this movie. It's a long yet rewarding experience, and one that you will want to relive over and over again, to weed out the subtleties you may have missed on your first viewing.


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