September 22, 2010

Must Watch Before You Die #4: 'The Truman Show' (1998)

A couple of days ago I finished studying Nicholas Proferes’ shot-by-shot discussion of Peter Weir’s ‘The Truman Show’. In his excellent book ‘Film Directing Fundamentals’ he studies the craft of three movies, the other two being Hitchcock’s ‘Notorious’ and Fellini’s ‘8 ½‘. While I was aware of the greatness of these two masterpieces, I wondered, before watching ‘Truman’, why Proferes has chosen this movie among the two great ones. I wonder no more.

Why ‘The Truman Show’ is a must-watch-before-you-die movie?
• Because ‘How the hell they came up with this idea!’ is the universal exclamation the audience has on watching this film. You talk about innovative story ideas? After watching this film, it will be the benchmark to evaluate that. Also, twelve years after its release, it now has indeed acquired a prophetic status, with our private lives actually being chased by the phenomenon of reality television.
• Because this story can only be told through the medium of cinema. Movies like these establish the importance and uniqueness of cinema among other forms of art and expression. ‘The Truman Show’ is a triumph of the power of cinema, something that would make its founding fathers smile in their graves.
• Because it is universal in its emotional appeal and entertainment. No one can stay unaffected by the wonderful journey of Truman, beyond cultures, languages, and even tastes. This film again proves that when it comes to pure entertainment, nobody does it better than Hollywood.
• Because Jim Carrey is Jim Carrey. And in this film he is more than that. He is Truman. I have watched its dramatic scenes so many times already, and with a very mathematical eye at the camera movement and the edit pattern and all. And in spite of that, Carrey’s performance makes me truly emotional. The climax is devastating and uplifting at the same time.
• Because you can not help but think about the philosophical undertone of this film – the world is an illusion, a make-believe trap for us, controlled by a mastermind, who loves us, but is cruel at the same time, who exists because of the world he has created, and the world exists because we allow ourselves to be trapped in the illusion. As Christof, the Creator of the Show says about Truman: “He could leave it anytime, if his was more than just a vague ambition. If he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there is no way we could prevent him... ultimately, Truman prefers his cell.”

If you haven’t watched this movie, you are definitely missing something wonderful.


  1. Double thumbs up !! This section is very fast developing into a treasure trove .
    "Good morning! And in case I don't see you: good afternoon, good evening and good night!" -- this scene was a major case of movie-induced goose bumps for me :)

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  3. So this was the first movie from your must watch list for which i had spaced out my time, after an overnight work till 6:30am today, and damn it, Satyanshu, what a movie.. would kill for it.. haven't watched anything like it in a long time..

    and since opening up your blog to read this post and react is the first thing i am upto immediately after watching 'the show', the emotions are running high and i might sound over-worded..

    ok, so psychology wins again.. inspite of knowing the act playing withing the act, still ended up sucking up with the audiences within the act..

    very few movie watch give me hair raising moments, as with age, innocence and ignorance fade and stoicism steps in.. but this one has to be the one that has given me the most.. and damn it..

    the last such act within the act watch was Rohan Sippy's Bluffmaster, but that's not even close..

    and that whole inconvenient paradigm of reality v/s illusion.. for being the baap of big boss.. and the leap of the courage and strength by the protagonist.. don't know in how many layers it has been played.. you must know better..

    and with such an aftertaste it has left, with no one here to share the experience with.. damn it..

    and good for me, i didn't read the must watch reasons to scale up my expectations; just read the post title and placing my trust on you, went for the movie.. and, good for me.. :)

    hope your other coming movies better live up to the standards.. they better..

    and you definitely have sucked me into reading that book now..

  4. just read this interesting trivia:

    The name of Truman's sailboat is the Santa Maria, the same name as one of Christopher Columbus's ships.


  5. @ Priyadarshi: I am glad to read your reaction.
    Devanshu too watched the movie yesterday itself and was similarly charged.

    You should read the book by Nicholas Proferes. I suppose it was you who sent me the PDF version of that book. If not, I will email it to you.

  6. i looked out for it instantly after reading you post. found it too... :)

  7. hey , thanks ..i watched it again after reading ur post... that's called power of expression...

  8. it is truly a legendary movie, but even then so few people know about it, only cinema freaks know about it majorly.. but yes, what an epic concept and unbelievably creative means of showing it... and brilliant performances too!!

  9. The Truman Show - A True Man's Reality

    It's an excellent interpretation of Demi-God & Human relationship. Although a poor man's representation – but surely a pretty good one.

    Ever since the infant (Jim) was in the womb – the Director(Demi God) , with the help of scientific advancement & technology, took the entire growth process, delivery, childhood, adulthood, marriage….basically outlined the life cycle of the child born. The human Director was trying to act God in front of the other viewers and the rest of the viewers – ie. common mass were watching it helplessly – rather enjoying the candid attitude and behavioral pattern of Jim Carrey.

    They stopped him from pursuing his own desires, failed him in school, rest of all the others who were with him were just a part of the huge studio as made by the Director and were acting all the time – making a fool of him – so basically he had no true friend – all actors !

    But a human Director is after all just a human. In comes a Lady – who tries to warn Jim of his delusion and gives him hints of his freedom. But soon the Director and the other team members take over and make Jim fall in love and even eventually marry the one they chose for him.

    He was shown carrying on with life reluctantly when suddenly he realizes that things are not what it seems to be – he then starts to investigate and finally break opens the cocoon (studio premises) he had been living in for so long ! Demi-God a.k.a. Director tries to give him a lot of hard ships – storm, tempest etc. but he could not stop Truman (Jim) from manifesting his own true self !

    This is the case with every human being – but most of them are happy as actors , some as helpless knowledgeable-s witnessing the suffering of a poor man who is being fooled by the entire world but are still sitting pretty about it – very rare few have the guts to break open the cocoon like Swami Vivekananda and his kinds- who, when open up their respective cocoons, let the entire world know of it and its possibilities !

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