At the very first part of the Truman Show, a little star falls from the sky. A star we as viewers quickly realize is a studio light. This falling light symbolises the artificiality and sets the vagary of the movie in place. A whole world, built for only one man. His life is broadcasted nationwide and the studio light firms the scene. On the light we could see a written message ” Sirius (9 canis major) which refers to Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.
In one of the Homerus works, a greek author, he mentions this specific star by writing ” Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky on summer nights, star of stars, Orion’s Dogs they call it, brightest of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat. Fevers to suffering humanity.” In the film, the falling of the light Sirius is the first in a series of ruptures in Truman’s fake reality. A series that ends with Truman sailing in deep water trying to escape his reality, despite the trauma he associates water with.
Peter Weir, the director of the Truman Show, invisions a door to escape the fake world and reality. As Truman sails his way to find the exit door he also leaves all the symbols we usually associate with goodness and positivity. He leaves the bright blue skies, the sunbeam breaking through the cloud, and the expansive sea of possibility. Reality, truth and authenticity are relegated to a small single rectangle of shadow, the door that Truman uses to escape his artificial world. It is hardly the light at the end of a tunnel that one might normally associate with freedom.
Throughout the film, Truman’s freedom is tightly linked with his childhood trauma, an example is his dad dying in a sailing accident. Every peak behind the curtain that Truman makes is accompanied by some form of pain. Whether it is the pain of seeing the image of a deceased loved one, the pain of a true connection abruptly cut short, the pain of a memory or simply the pain of uncertainty, not knowing what it is your seeing. This is a pain we all are familiar with thus explaining the saying ” we only see what we want to see”. In many ways has Truman been previewed to a lifetime full of hints and clues to the fact that his world is not what it seems. An example is when Truman is 5 years old celebrating christmas with his parents, a man popps out of one a christmas presents and shouts “Truman, it is television”.
Peter weir and the writer Andrew Nickel, where prophetic about so much from the vantage of 1998, the ubiquity of reality television and the rise of mass surveillance. They keyd in perfectly for the older generation who are scared of cold war paranoia and of being watched or bugged and also my own generation of narcissism, where it buggs us not to be watched.
Personally I see the Truman show as an allegory for the present. Just like Truman’s town of Seahaven our own world seems to be experiencing a similar series of ruptures. Ruptures like the great recession in 2008, the arab spring, like the killings of young black men by police, like brexit, the splitting of the U.K from Europe and most recently, like the rise of the republicans with Donald trump in charge of the U.S. I think american society, at large, is like Truman, laboring like him for 30 + years under a system that is finally showing itself to be ridiculous. Just like Truman, society is trying to wake itself up while stumbling under the pain that surfaces from doing so.
The rich and powerful in our world hold things in place just like Christoph, director in the movie, held Truman. The only difference is that we could easily hold ourselves in place. The Truman Show does not portray liberation as utopia but as a world flawed just like our own full of multiplicity, contradiction and people obsessed with TV. It is a world only gained by struggle and pain, one that often looks like an evil portan in the moment. It is not a sunburst in the clouds or an endless sea, but a small shadowy door that leads of to a territory unmapped but hopefully invested with a greater authenticity.