Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Good morning, and in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!

No 328 - The Truman Show
Director - Peter Weir

Empire's Twitter has pointed me in the direction of this blog here. Now of course, I'm slightly jealous that he has managed to get the magazine's attention without even trying (for I am a petty and bitter man) - but mostly I think it is awesome that other people are cracking through the films. It is a good little challenge.You may see from the Blog that this chap (I believe his name is Dallas) is going to try and watch them all in one year. A mighty feat indeed and it has encouraged me to get my act together. So... Witness... THE SECOND BLOG IN ONE DAY! Gasp! Egad! etcetera....

After a very early start for a morning at work, I relished in my free afternoon and sat down in front of the Truman Show. I don't know whether it is a guilty pleasure but I really like Jim Carrey when he is in his serious roles. Eternal Sunshine, Man on the Moon, Truman Show are all brilliant films. The Number 23 is completely ridiculous and too far the other way (I'm a KILLER! I! HAVE! KILLED!) but his restrained serious roles are really good and this story is a lovely showcase for him (considering it comes straight after Liar Liar, The Cable Guy and Ace Ventura).

The film is, in equal parts, genius and bonkers. The central themes are handled beautifully but the periperal details are so damned ridiculous that they just have to be overlooked. Let us begin by discussing what this film really is about. It is about freedom, about manipulation and about paranoia. It is also about how fucking ridiculous Reality TV has become. The fact that it handles those weighty themes with such a light touch is the film's key skill. It is a wonderfully charming film dealing with the imprisonment, delusion and puppetry of an innocent man... It is inspired.

Let us begin by looking at the ridiculous peripherals so that I can then discuss the genius behind it. Christof (I assume the man is a billionaire artist mad man, though it is never really said out right) has created an island encased in a dome. This has a controllable horizon, ecosystem and every single living person on the island is a character used to create Truman's world.
Truman is a man who has been filmed (without his knowing, and by 5000 cameras) since birth in a giant set created solely for him. Screw the Lost pilot, or Angel's death in Buffy, this is the most expensive bit of TV ever!

Truman begins to get suspicious when technical things start to go wrong. A star (a presumably monstrously bright stage light) falls out of the sky, a localised rain storm follows him along the beach. Traffic and people starts acting strangely. All these 'clues' are a bit silly, but there is one unforgivable moment. In Truman's wedding photos, Meryl (Truman's wife) has her fingers crossed. Now... as far as I'm aware, as an ADULT, crossing your fingers doesn't mean diddly. It certainly doesn't negate a WEDDING! If you were acting. In a TV show. Surely the wedding wouldn't be legit. It doesn't have to be. SO DON'T CROSS YOUR FINGERS IN YOUR WEDDING PHOTOS! You'll only look suspicious.
I've never understood the fingers crossed thing.

As an outsider, the entire of Truman's world is suspicious (of course, as Christof says, we accept the world we grow up in - so it would be normal for Truman) filled with a wonderfully strange sense of 1950s suburbia. Pastel shades and cheery smiles, a complete utopia filled with electric cars and angora cardigans. It is also a world filled with product placement and the most fantastic 'anti travel' propaganda - the travel agents is a pure unbridled delight, filled with posters showing the dangers of travel and recommending people just stay at home.

The film sets up this insane situation, but also introduces a genuinely sad and touching love story, because the story has much darker manipulation than merely controlling weather and neighbours. Truman falls in love with an 'extra' rather than a 'lead role' and therefore, Truman's object of affection is shipped away and Truman is introduced to Meryl. The flashbacks to the brief fling shared by Truman and Sylvia is interlocked with footage of Sylvia watching The Truman Show on her TV set.
It is his love which spurs him on to finally escape the Island.

For all the silliness of the film, the final sequence is fantastic... Truman's determination as he battles the elements and his fear to sail to freedom. The fantasy notions that the TV crew use to stop him (using the moon as a spotlight is a particular joy) and the final shot. As Truman walks up a staircase on the horizon. That is a beautiful and somewhat surreal highlight of modern pop culture.

I'd just love to see a brief follow up showing how Truman fares in the real world as the most famous person on Earth...

1 comment:

PhilH said...

I had this on VHS but I gave all of those to a charity shop. I've been thinking a lot lately that I should get it on DVD.

And no, Carrey in serious roles is not a guilty pleasure. They are by far his best films.