In class we have been studying The Truman Show. A film where one man lives under the hands of the media. His whole life has been one lie; everything he stood for was fraud. The Truman show is self-reflexive. This means the content of the film is reflecting the media itself. The Truman Show is about a film within a film, it shows the life of one man- Truman Burbank. Hidden cameras placed within the set monitor every second of his life.
Truman inhabits a world similar to Big brother. Wherever he goes he is being watched. The viewer is inspired by Truman and feels sorry for him all the way through.
In my essay I will analyse the film and try to explain what I think the whole film stands for. The narrative of The Truman Show is All knowing, this means that the viewer knows more than the characters inside the film. We all know Truman’s world is false, but Truman has no idea.
Truman Burbank’s life is one huge lie; he lives on Seahaven – the world’s biggest studio set. From the moment he was born, his life has been on air 24/7 and little does he know that he is the worlds most loved TV star. Apart from this dark secret, his life is practically perfect.
He inhabits the most perfect town, with all happy people where everybody knows his name. His life is hunky dory. Of course, everything is so perfect because its all staged, along with all events in his life.
The Truman Show also follows Todorov’s Theory. The exposition is when Christoff and the characters are talking about the show. At the beginning we are introduced to the show with a sign, which helped us familiarize us with the TV show. The mis-en-scene of the frame was a black screen with white Sans Serif font as the body, the text told us how many days into the show it was. This helped set the scene a little more.
When we are introduced to Seahaven and we instantly recognise it as a typical happy American town, such as you would see in a musical. The story develops when Truman meets Lauren (Sylvia) and he falls in love. She takes him to the beach and tells him that everyone can see him. She tells him her name isn’t Lauren its Sylvia. Coincidently she gets whisked away to Fiji. From that moment on, Truman starts to get suspicious. This is the complication. A climax is reached when Truman escapes and is out on the boat. In the resolution Truman’s boat hits the wall at the edge of the set and discovers the truth.
The closure of the film occurs when Truman decides to leave. The story ends with his classic words. “Incase I don’t see ya, Good Morning, Good Evening and Goodnight. ” This is a happy ending and it puts a tear to our eye. The audience within the film and us all feel sympathy towards Truman. Jim Carrey plays Truman. Truman Burbank is carefree, happy and venerable, unlike most roles Jim Carrey is likely to play. The TV audience love him because he is so nice. Infact he is so nice it is almost unreal. Most of his personality is constructed and controlled by Christoff.
His world is so nice, its like a dream, so cheesy its unreal. We feel sorry for Truman because he is so lovable but has no privacy and his whole life is monitored and on display to the world. Its as if everyone is betraying him. He dresses like the typical American family man. In a woolly v-neck jumper or a suit. We identify with Truman and psychologically become a part of his world. Us as the audience love him and see him as the hero in the show. We sympathise with Truman even more because he thinks he has a wife who loves him and a best friend he can trust.
Little does he know he has been cheated on and when he leaves Seahaven he has to re-build his life all over again. Meryl, Truman’s wife is the typical blonde American housewife. She often wore an apron or a nurse’s uniform, which is a general typical job of a woman. “Meryl has a tang of arsenic in her syrupy voice” Here Jane McDowell is suggesting that she sounds almost too sweet, that her voice is quite intimidating. I agree with him because at times Meryl sounded so nice that she seemed false. Marlon- Truman’s best friend is totally controlled by Christoff.
In the scene where Truman is reunited with his father, Christoff is dictating to Marlon what to say. Then when Truman goes missing Marlon is under Christoff’s instructions and does exactly what Christoff is telling him to do.. He is very loyal to Christoff and seems very puppet like, without a mind of his own. Christoff is represented as a stereotypical director. The Truman show is his life, he is obsessed with the show and is willing to sacrifice anything for it- even Truman’s life. As Truman is escaping on the boat Christoff creates a tidal wave in order for Truman not to find out he world is a fraud.
Christoff is probably the most powerful character in the whole film. He wears all black, which could signify evil. He shows no emotions towards Truman. Which makes us, as the audience dislike him. He is the villain in the film. Christoff is like a god to Truman. Not in the way of a hero but the word God is more of a metaphor. He has made Truman’s life what it is and has the power to do what he wants to him. Christoff designed Truman’s world and picked all his family and friends. Toward the end when Christoff tells Truman the truth, all Truman can hear is Christoff’s voice.
This symbolises Christoff as a God to Truman. Sylvia is almost the only real Character in the movie. Truman adores her, and created a picture of her using cut out from magazines. He carried this around with him. Sylvia is very honest to Truman and tells him everything. When she got chucked off the set. Lauren is seen watching the show. When Truman laughed she laughed with him. When Truman was in trouble she cried. There are two different types of Enigma codes in The Truman Show. One being the clues given to Truman and the second type is given to us- the audience.
The first code given to Truman is when a light falls out of the sky at the very beginning. Truman is surprised at first but fails to think anything of it, and he goes on with life as usual. As the film goes on, more enigma codes are given to Truman and eventually leads to his escape. Such codes include Meryl having her fingers crossed, the small amounts of rain that mysteriously follows him, the disappearance of Sylvia, Sylvia telling him the truth and when a part of the set is accidentally revealed. As Truman got more suspicious he took notice of these codes and became more aware of them.
One day, he is in his car listening to the radio when the signal interferes and he hears people talking about him and his actions. He starts to notice small things like people he’d never met before knowing his name. Another time he runs into the road and the bus stopped straight away, with a spookily quick reaction. Also, Truman starts to notice other things, he predicts a lady with flowers, then a beetle, and then a couple would come around the corner. Truman then goes mad and tries to escape with Meryl. Coincidently there’s a leak at the power plant and Truman has to return home.
All these clues leave Truman suspicious and he tries to escape. There are also enigma codes given to us as the audience. When Truman sees Sylvia in the library she is wearing a badge saying, “How will it end? ” The camera performs and Extreme Close up on this bade so that we can’t focus on anything else. This is so Peter Wier can ensure that we’ve defiantly seen it and to emphasise the importance of the badge. This makes the audience wonder what does happen at the end. Other camera techniques are used in The Truman Show to convey messages to the audience.
During the film the camera take different angles and points of view to vary the scenes and to keep the viewers attention. Without different camera shots the film would seem very plain and unprofessional. Lots of different shots are used for a reason. The camera exerts a low angle and looks up at Christoff symbolically making him look more powerful. When Truman and Meryl are talking the camera switches shots, this is called shot reverse shot. This enables the audience to see both subjects within the scene and makes the conversation more interesting. Also then different camera techniques can be used within each frame.
In example, the camera exerts a high angle filming Truman, this makes Truman seem more week and inferior to Meryl who is being filmed at a high angle making her look more superior. Truman is perhaps made to look weaker than Meryl because at this time in the film Meryl and Christoff had allot of power over Truman and perhaps in a way they were controlling him. Throughout the film POV shots are constantly used. The impression given to us, as the audience is that these cameras are stuck onto the actors within Seahaven. For example, when Truman was trying to escape there was coincidentally a nuclear leak.
One of the supposed workers of the plant had a camera placed inside his Mask. While this worker was spraying Truman to knock him unconscious we saw all this from the view of the worker. These point of view shots make us feel even more the atmosphere of a TV set. I could tell when there was a POV shot because the corners of the frame were faded. This helped me familiarise myself with a POV camera so I could tell the difference between an ordinary camera and a hidden one. During the scene where Truman is reunited with his father a variation of shots are used.
A close up of Truman’s crying face is used, this brings out Truman’s emotions and makes both audiences feel sorry for him. A long shot of Truman and his father hugging is used to show the audience their actions. Also a medium shot is used where we can see the fathers back and Truman’s face, yet again this reminds the audience of the trauma Truman is going through. Also many Mini- Cams are used around the set of Seahaven. These are hidden cameras around the set such as security cameras or hidden cameras in cupboards or in paintings etc. An example of this would be when Truman is in the hospital and he is being spied on by a security camera.
We hear the mechanics within the camera as it moves. This non-diagetic sound informs us that the camera is that of a hidden camera within the set. At the beginning Truman is looking directly at the audience, it appears that his is talking to us. This is a direct mode of address. This infact is a hidden camera hidden in the mirror in the bathroom. This sets the scene well because we realise Truman isn’t talking to us but instead he is being spied upon. There were 6 key moments for me. First two were at the beginning in the jolly happy morning scene where everyone was saying greeting him and everything was really cheesy and jolly.
Around that time a light fell out of the sky and gave Truman the first hint that something was wrong. Other Key moments we time such as when Meryl had her fingers crossed on the wedding photo, when Truman met up with his father and when Truman fell in love with Lauren. The Key moment for me in the whole film was when Truman escaped at the end. This was very significant to me because it shows Truman conquering all the people that had lied to him and beating them at their own game. Non-diagetic and diagetic sounds are used in almost every scene in the Truman show.
In one scene you can hear the diagetic sound of tweeting birds, which is a stereotypical sound of a peaceful happy village. It is hard though to say whether this is diagetic or non diagetic…. This is because Christoff might have placed these sounds into the set of Seahaven therefore making them non-diagetic sound FX. Though the dialogue by Truman and all the characters is defiantly diagetic sound. When Truman is out on the boat Christoff adds in Non- diagetic sound effects to build up tension for the audience within the film. He plays fast tragic music to go with the scene.
When the moment in the film is more jolly, i. e. when Truman goes out in the morning the music played is more happy and cheesy. This makes the viewer feel more relaxed and tells us that everything is fine and dandy. When Truman was re-united with his father slow sad music is played to make the viewer feel sad. Without music added into the film the reader wont feel the emotions that they do. When Truman escapes the whole town is searching for him. Diagetic FX are used to show the marching of the town. This loud sound can symbolise a threat to Truman or signify the marching of the drums during a war.
There are three audiences that watch the Truman show. The audience that Christoff has attracted, the TV crew that are creating the show, and then there’s us. The audience that watches the film that Peter Weird created. The audience that watches the Truman show in the film is totally obsessed with Truman. They are there watching with amazement in all the key moments in the film. When Truman Meets up with his dad, they are there crying. When Truman escapes they are there mystified. When Truman nearly dies they are there crying, and when Truman leaves the show they are there cheering.
This TV audience is active and are most likely linked to the ‘ uses and gratifications theory’. They seem to evolve their life around Truman and watch him as much as they possible could. When they are out with friends their main topic of conversation is likely to be about the Truman show. They are probably addicted to the show and will forever watch it to find out what will happen next. It could be said that some of the audience are passive, and are affected by the ‘hyperdermic needle effect’; because they watch Truman so much they are likely to copy him.
They might go out and say the things he says. Such as “Incase I don’t see ya, good morning good evening and goodnight”. This audience is from Adults up. Those who haven’t got much to do during the day. Also I would guess the audience is mainly older because they would have been watching the show from Truman’s birth so they would have followed it. Using the Registrars General scale I would say the class of this audience is from C – E. This is because they are most likely to be unemployed so they watch the show during the day.
People of a higher class or children are usually at school during the day so they wouldn’t be able to catch on to the show so easily. In general I would say the audience is dominantly white because the actors in the show are mainly white (apart from the bus driver). Also Truman is a typical white American Man and other races are less likely able to link with him so well. Having said that I wouldn’t say it was specifically aimed at any particular race. Both male and females watch the film in the show. The TV crew audience rely on Truman to give themselves a successful show.
They watch him with wonder and hesitation in order to see if the scene they had tried to create had gone to plan. Then they congratulate themselves if a scene goes well. They are there watching Truman constantly, monitoring his every moment. It was the TV audience that first spotted Truman was missing. We relate to this audience the least because we dislike them for what they are doing to Truman. The audience that watches the film (us) is different to the audience within the film. We aren’t likely to be addicted to the show because it doesn’t have any more episodes following it.
I would say the target audience is to be of age 10+, anyone who will understand the story and grasp what’s going on inside. The film is a certificate PG but it may be too complicated for a 6 yr old. I would say it is ideal for people of any lifestyle. I would say it could be for the middle class lifestyle for many reasons. The world Truman inhabits is quite complicated and middle class people are more likely to grasp the concepts of it all. Lower classes (D and E registrars general scale) are less likely to appreciate the film as much because they might not understand it, they might find it cheesy or could find it boring.
Also in the film allot of classical music is played which in general would appeal to a higher-class audience. The audience of this film is again probably dominantly white. I get this idea because the film is based on more of a white culture. The Truman show makes its audience value the importance of privacy. After watching the film the audience thinks twice about whether there life is like Truman’s. We also start to wonder who we can trust. Its not fair that Truman has his life controlled and by watching the film people might learn to treat other people better.
Peter Weir gives off many messages during the Truman Show, He is laughing at the media all the way through and portrays them as a very powerful, untrustworthy organisation. The whole show symbolises real life. Many people have their lives followed and monitored by the media and have no privacy, for example Posh Spice and David Beckham. In the Truman show, Truman’s life was perfect. Everything he wanted it to be. Everything he heard was exactly what he wanted to hear. When he started getting clues to his life being a lie he denied them at first but after a number of strange events he discovers that what he used to believe was one big lie.
This show also conveys that people cant keep a huge secret from someone because eventually they’d find out and it will all end in tears. I enjoyed watching the Truman Show. It’s a very interesting film and it made me think twice about life. My favourite part was when Truman found out the truth, I felt really pleased for Truman and it was a really emotional ending. It was great that Truman finally defeated the media, and re-united with the only honest person in his life. It would love it if a Truman show 2 was made and I could find out how Truman coped with living after a lie.