What if your house, neighbourhood, even your city were part of a TV set? This is the fake world - a kind of suburban utopia - where Truman Burbanks lives, tricked by loops of spaces and stuck in routines. The film questions the idea of a “perfect” reality, and troubles the predictable scenarios of suburban life. From the perspective of urban planning and architecture, the film makes you wonder: to what extent should we have control over our environments? To what extent should we design out choice, or randomness, or disorder, in the name of “perfection”? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Original title: The Truman Show Year: 1998 Runtime: 103 min. Country: United States Director: Peter Weir Writer: Andrew Niccol Soundtrack: Burkhard Dallwitz, Philip Glass Cast: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Ed Harris, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhone
Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lived his entire life, since before birth, in front of cameras for The Truman Show, although he is unaware of this fact. Truman’s life is filmed through thousands of hidden cameras, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and broadcast live around the world, allowing executive producer Christof (Ed Harris) to capture Truman’s real emotion and human behavior when put in certain situations. Truman’s hometown of Seahaven is a complete set built under a giant arcological dome, populated by the show’s actors and crew, allowing Christof to control every aspect of Truman’s life, even the weather. To prevent Truman from discovering his false reality, Christof has invented means of dissuading his sense of exploration, including “killing” his father in a storm while on a fishing trip to instill in him a fear of the water, and making many news reports and ‘adverts’ about the dangers of travelling, and featuring television shows about how good it is to stay at home. However, despite Christof’s control, Truman has managed to behave in unexpected manners, in particular falling in love with an extra, Sylvia (known to Truman as Lauren), instead of Meryl, the character intended to be his wife. Though Sylvia is removed from the set quickly, her memory still resonates with him, and he ‘secretly’ thinks of her outside of his marriage to Meryl. Sylvia shortly afterwards becomes part of a “Free Truman” campaign that fights to have Truman freed from the show.
During the 30th year of “The Truman Show”, Truman begins to notice certain aspects of his near-perfect world that seem out of place, such as a falling spotlight from the artificial night sky constellations that nearly hits him (quickly passed off by local radio as an aircraft’s dislodged landing light) and Truman’s car radio accidentally picking up conversation between the show’s crew. As well as these strange one-off occurrences, Truman also becomes aware of more subtle abnormalities within his regular day-to-day life, such as the way in which the same people appear in the same places at certain times each day and Meryl’s tendency to blatantly advertise the various products she buys. These events are punctuated by the reappearance of Truman’s supposedly “dead” father onto the set, at first dressed as a hobo. The old man is suddenly whisked away as soon as Truman notices him.
Despite the best efforts of his family and his best friend Marlon to reassure him (the latter being fed lines of comforting dialogue by Christof through a wireless earpiece), all these events cause Truman to start wondering about his life, realizing how the world seems to revolve around him. Meryl grows increasingly stressed by the pressure of perpetuating the deception, and their marriage unravels in the face of Truman’s increasing skepticism and attendant hostility towards her. Truman seeks to get away from Seahaven but is blocked by the inability to arrange for flights, bus breakdowns, sudden masses of traffic, a forest fire, and an apparent nuclear meltdown. After Meryl breaks down and is taken off the show, Christof officially brings back Truman’s father, hoping his presence will keep Truman from trying to leave. However, he only provides a temporary respite: Truman soon becomes isolated and begins staying alone in his basement after Meryl “leaves” him. One night, Truman manages to fool the cameras and escapes the basement undetected via a secret tunnel, forcing Christof to temporarily suspend broadcasting of the show for the first time in its history. This causes a surge in viewership, with many viewers, including Sylvia, cheering on Truman’s escape attempt.
Christof orders every actor and crew member to search the town, even breaking the town’s daylight cycle to help in the search. They find that Truman has managed to overcome his fear of the water and has been sailing away from the town in a small boat named Santa Maria (the name of the largest of the three ships with which Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World). After restoring the broadcast, Christof orders the show’s crew to create a large storm to try to capsize the boat, prompting a heated debate with his superiors over the morality and legality of killing Truman off in front of a live global audience. However, Truman’s determination eventually leads Christof to terminate the storm. As Truman recovers, the boat reaches the edge of the dome, its bow piercing through the dome’s painted sky. An awe-struck Truman then discovers a flight of stairs nearby, leading to a door marked “EXIT”. As he contemplates leaving his world, Christof speaks directly to Truman via a powerful sound system, trying to persuade him to stay and arguing that there is no more truth in the real world than there is in his own, artificial world. Truman, after a moment’s thought, delivers his catchphrase, “In case I don’t see you… good afternoon, good evening, and good night,” bows to his audience, and steps through the door and into the real world. The assembled television viewers excitedly celebrate Truman’s escape, and Sylvia quickly leaves her apartment to reunite with him. A network executive orders the crew to cease transmission. With the show completed, members of Truman’s former audience are shown looking for something else to watch.
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