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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

The Truman Show: Review

The Truman Show (directed by Peter Weir and written by Andrew Niccol in 1998) is the story of an insurance salesman named Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey) who is living the American dream. He has the perfect wife, the well-paid office job, and a beautiful house with a white picket fence. But in the midst of this surrounding perfection, Truman has a deep longing for something more, an escape from his ordinary, humdrum life. Little does Truman know that his entire life is being broadcasted on national TV as a continually airing show. Millions of people are tuning in to watch Truman live his life, whatever that may entail.

But as the studio he believes to be his hometown begins to malfunction, Truman discovers that his perception of reality is not reality at all. His wife, Meryl Burbank (Laura Linney) and his best friend Marlon, (Noah Emmerich), do all they can to keep the show alive and Truman oblivious to the truth. So, as the world he’s always known begins to crumble, Truman finally discovers that everything he has ever known is in fact a concoction created by an obsessed studio executive named Christof (Ed Harris). Truman is eventually faced with an ultimatum; live the perfect life he has always known, or escape the walls of the studio and experience the imperfect world he has yet to see.

The Truman Show was released in 1998, a time when reality television was not extremely popular like it is today. At the time of this film’s release, there were a few reality shows such as, COPS and Candid Camera. However, the concept of following around a Joe schmoe every moment of the day, or having cameras in someone’s home, capturing some of their most intimate moments did not become popular until the early 2000’s. With MTV’s reality show, The Real World solidly going and the premier of CBS’s Survivor, the reality TV boom officially commenced. Looking back at the timing of it all, it appears that Andrew Niccol’s script for The Truman Show might even have been the catalyst. There are many attributes to this film that are seen in many reality shows today, although a few aspects to the show aren’t quite so similar to what we know as reality TV. The incredibly obvious use of product placements, or the fact that the main subject of the show has no idea he is being filmed are just some, to name a few. Still, the basic concepts are definitely there and are very prevalent throughout.

Being that this film creates many different emotions within the viewer, the soundtrack for The Truman Show is somewhat eclectic. Not only is the music composed for this film, but it is also, in a way, an “Inception” of music: a composition within a composition. Sounds confusing? Let me explain. As the character Truman experiences various scripted trials in his life, within the film there is a music composer character who closely follows along, emphasizing the emotions that the studio writers orchestrate. This means that the actual original composers of the film, Philip Glass and Burkhard Dallwitz, composed the score as if for a TV drama and a quirky feature film combined. (Now that takes talent.)

One major point in The Truman Show is when Truman recalls the traumatic moment when his father “dies” in a boating accident. As his tears begin to well up, the music smoothly builds, creating a heavily emotional feeling in the viewers. This made for an interesting element in the film, being that as a viewer, I often forgot that Truman's world was all part of the contrived show. This was Truman’s reality, yet it was a synthesized moment created by writers, editors, and good music composition. Kind of like what "Reality Shows" do today. If you think I'm just trying to be funny, ask yourself why there's a credit for "Writer" on every so-called reality show if what is happening is suppose to be "real".

Created as a cautionary tell against the media obsessed times, The Truman Show ended up being very effective, as well as being way ahead of itself. Ironically, the creators never realized the film was far more representative of the reality shows of the future than its satirical script could ever have imagined, ending up more as a harbinger of the reality show drenched airwaves to come.

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