The Truman Show (1998)

by | Oct 13, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The Truman Show (1998)

Starring Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Ed Harris
Directed by Peter Weir
Studio: Paramount
Video: Enhanced for widescreen 16:9
Audio: Dolby Digital English 5.1, English 2.0 surround, French 2.0 surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: 2-part documentary The Making of…, The Visual Effects of The
Truman Show, 4 Deleted scenes, Photo gallery, 2 theatrical trailers, 2
TV spots
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: *****

I’m sure many film fans skipped over this one in the theaters because of
Carrey’s over-the-top Jerry Lewis-influenced roles. They missed
probably the actor’s masterpiece so far in his career, moreover another
exceptional film from Australia’s Peter Weir on the director’s favorite
theme: a person who doesn’t fit in to his own world. The original story
by Andrew Niccol had a more sci-fi aspect to it, but Weir sought to
play up the reality aspects – in fact making them super-real. The
Making Of…featurette has several of those involved talking about how
they didn’t realize at the time how prophetic the film was of what horrors were in today’s world to be known as Reality TV.

Harris is Christof, a God-like TV producer who conceived the idea of
showing on 24/7 TV the life of a human being from cradle to grave in
the artificial environment of Seahaven – an island community created on
a massive Hollywood soundstage. (A parallel to the artist Christo, who
wraps massive objects?) Everyone Truman relates to – his wife, mother,
best friend – are all actors in the soap opera of his life which the
rest of the world is watching (and reacting to in several running gags
during the film) via thousands of tiny cameras hidden all over the
town. He is provided the “perfect” life, with no sadness or pain, but
slowly he begins to suspect something is not quite right. Influences of
stories by Philip K. Dick and the cult TV series The Prisoner may be
felt in Weir’s treatment of the story.

A strong stimulus for Truman’s questioning (he eventually takes the
philosophical question “Why Am I Here?” a bit further to “Where/What Am
I?”) is the accidental fall of a loose theater light from the
“sky”  which crashes onto the pavement near Truman. This is then
explained in the faux news flash Truman hears on his car radio while
driving to his job, alluding to some objects falling off a plane flying
over Seahaven. But other incidents continue, such as Truman figuring
out that at a certain time a certain sequence of the same passersby
doing the same things occurs at the same street (they are just walking
in a circle thru the village). The continual product infomercials his
overly-perky wife does in their home also perturb Truman (“Who are you
talking to?” he yells.)  Truman makes several attempts to leave
Seahaven to visit Fiji, which has fascinated him for some time. 
Each one is foiled, one requiring dozens of extras and equipment to
stage an emergency that blocks the road out of Seahaven. (The Prisoner
again.) Eventually Truman makes a super effort to get away from his
supposedly normal life and to find out about the web of deceit that has
stood in for his real life.  The conclusion is thrilling, moving
and emotional in a highly original manner.  Both Carrey and Harris
should have gotten all sorts of Oscars for their efforts.

The video transfer is one of the best I’ve recently viewed, and that is
important due to the subtle visual effects of the film described in the
extras documentary on that subject.  Weir’s idea was to make the
town (a real tourist town on the Florida coast) look more real than
real with exaggerated lighting, spectacular sunsets and sunrises, a
giant moon, greenish highlights on the waves rolling in, and so on. The
high resolution and clarity somehow supports the general feeling of
artificiality.  The 5.1 surround sound also supports the
presentation in such scenes as the small circle of rain failing just on
Truman and then moving across the screen with him as he tries to escape
it. The Truman Show is truly a marvel of a movie.

– John Sunier

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