The movie The Truman Show works on a whole load of levels. Watching it again recently it struck me that in some ways it shows a world that many of us would quite like. Truman Burbank lives in a TV show and does not know it. All the other people in his life are actors and there’s a director in charge of the action. Truman has no idea, he thinks it’s the way life is.
The upshot of this for Truman is that everyone’s nice to him all the time, nothing bad happens (mostly – he lost his father when young but that was a contrived situation to give him a fear of the sea and stop him leaving) and Truman is protected from doing destructive things.
If he ever begins to go the wrong way he is interrupted by a friend with a six pack of beer, or a bunch of joggers just passing by, or his ever-loving wife who insists on popping up with new products she can flash at the hidden cameras and ‘advertise’. When he falls in love with the wrong girl at college he is steered away by friends, and though he persists on looking at a secret picture of her in his basement he’s often conveniently interrupted by his wife.
It’s a perfect world. He cannot damage himself or others. The sun always shines, but there are no droughts. Shopkeepers always smile, neighbours are friendly, life works out. Until a light drops out of the sky, and he accidentally tunes into stage directions on his radio, and he spots the man who was his father now playing a homeless guy. Then he begins to question things. The action here is all directed by a guy called Christof, but Truman is more than just a pawn. He has a certain amount of freedom, he just must not find out what’s really going on. Millions of people tune in every day to watch his progress. Everything would fall apart if Truman were to ever discover reality.
Of course he does discover it, and the closing scenes of the movie revolve around Truman coming to the end of his world and finding a door. He can leave, he can break out, he can find reality. That said, it won’t be the safe cosy world he has known all his life. It’s a world where the wild things are – and if Truman wants reality he will have to take the good with the bad. There are probably times when we wish our world was more like Truman’s. Those moments when problems arise or disaster strikes and we wish life were simpler and safer. We long perhaps for ‘the director’ to break in and sort it out for us. And there are many times he really does.
And perhaps that’s the profound thing about this movie, life is more complex. We can’t just switch worlds when it suits. We find ourselves plunged into a hard world at times, full of good things and good people, but littered with man traps and accidents waiting to happen. The sun does not always shine. We are not in The Truman Show and if we were we’d probably long to break out.