The Truman Show
by Karl Bowman and Jonathan Walker
Ever had the feeling that someone was watching you? Like 5 billion people?
At birth, an entertainment company adopts Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) to “star” in a television show documenting every moment of his life. The show’s producer, Christof (Ed Harris), fabricates a whole world in an effort to evoke honest human behavior from the unwitting Truman. A series of suspicious events cause Truman to suspect that life is not what it seems and he embarks on a quest for the truth.
Certainly one of the best films of the last few years, The Truman Show has the additional distinction of a powerful, affirming theme. In some ways, it even works as a spiritual allegory for our own lives.
Christof: “Cue the sun!“
As creator of Truman’s world, Christof controls the sun, the weather, the water, and even the behavior of Seahaven’s inhabitants, but he is a total fraud. He is off from God, or “Christ-off”. Unlike the benevolent God, he controls his creation with cold technology, calculation, and a disrespect of Truman’s agency. Time and time again, he thwarts Truman’s righteous desires and manipulates him for his own purpose.
Christof: “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.“
Although Truman lives in a totally fabricated world, he is a “True-man”. At one point, he asks Christof, “Is any of it real?” Christof replies, “You are.” Truman is the only genuine element in this contrived television show. Like any child of God, he lives his life in the pursuit of happiness. His pain and his joy is always real, although the plots behind them are not.
Sylvia: “Look at what you’ve done to him!“
Christof: “I have given Truman the chance to lead a normal life. The world, the place you live in, is the sick place.“
When strange occurrences begin to reveal the work of Christof, Truman senses that his God-given agency is in jeopardy. He recalls unexplained events from his past and begins to make connections. He quickly devises tests which further reveal the mechanism behind his environment. This is a terrible revelation, but his intense determination forces him to continue his quest. He is not sure what he will find, but he believes that the truth will indeed set him free.
Christof is not an easy foe. He has taken precautions to insure the show, giving Truman a mortal fear of water. And of course, he has surrounded Seahaven with water. The only way for Truman to escape this conniving trap is to overcome his greatest fear.
Christof severely underestimates the determination of the human spirit. Truman battles against all odds to arrive at the edge of the outside world, stripping Christof of his omnipotence (or his illusion of it).
Truman is faced with the ultimate temptation to abandon his quest. Could Seahaven really be better than the real world where pain and sorrow await? Is Truman willing to sacrifice all that he has known in order to be true to the knowledge he has gained? Will “The Truman Show” go on?
Screenwriter Andrew Niccol gives us a fascinating tale that helps us ponder about who we really are and the purposes of life. Small touches like Christof’s use of a single name contributes to that character’s pride and gives the film depth.
As the jaded Hollywood producer, Ed Harris turns in a chilling performance. His Christof is a complex and fascinating antagonist because his work has consumed him. He truly believes he is doing Truman a favor by keeping him in the dark. He also believes that he is providing a great service in keeping the show on the air at all costs.
Jim Carrey gives a phenomenal dramatic performance as Truman. Beyond his obvious star power, Carrey brings a wide-eyed innocence to Truman that few actors can achieve.
Director Peter Weir (Dead Poets Sociey, Witness) skillfully emphasizes what it means to truly live by comparing Truman with the viewers, actors, and technicians of “The Truman Show”. These people live in the real world, with real problems, yet all of them passively take their emotional cues from Truman. They forfeit life by not living it. Even Christof, with his five thousand cameras simply creates the best way to watch.
The Truman Show can be seen as an allegory for the journey of a spiritual life. Some might argue that there is no mention of religion or much of God in the film. However, it deals with the nature of spiritual living in a creative and indirect way. The essence of religion is the belief that there is something more to reality than just the world around us. And the essence of the spiritual life is the determination to know it. Truman sets out to discover “things as they really are” with the courage to search regardless of the cost, and find, regardless of the consequence.
2001 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.