|Truman Show, The|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 26 January 1999|
‘The Truman Show’ gives whole new meaning to the term home video. Visually arresting, side-splittingly funny and intellectually challenging, it’s a mixture of ‘The Twilight Zone,’ ‘Network,’ ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ and its own distinct style.
When we meet Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), he’s on Day 10,909 of his life. We know this because it’s time-coded beneath Truman’s image. Truman is the only person in his world who doesn’t know that every single instant of his life from birth onwards has been video taped as part of a 24-hour-a-day TV show. Everyone Truman has ever met is an actor; the town where he lives, the surrounding sea and even the sky above are all sets. Everything is a little too picture-perfect. It’s the only existence Truman knows, but as he nears his 30th birthday, he’s becoming restless and suspicious.
Director Peter Weir and writer Andrew Niccol deliberately comment on how we’re seeing what we’re seeing. We look at our hero from the reverse side of car rear view mirrors, tiny receptors installed in wrist watches, the top of the sky and underwater. The filmmakers put some cool, surreal imagery in the service of sharp storytelling, with a full moon that turns into a searchlight and, in Chapter 12, the most overtly choreographed traffic jam you’ve ever seen. Well before the movie ends, they’ve got us scrutinizing everything in the frame, wondering whether each object and doorway will turn out to be yet another surveillance device.
Carrey is ideally cast as Truman, smart and contained but bringing a manic tinge to the role that’s perfectly consistent with the notion that this character has spent his entire life in front of an audience.
The DVD has wonderful picture and sound quality, especially in a climactic, terrifying storm sequence in Chapter 20. It also has some of the niftiest interactive menus yet, unspooling an explanatory, moving-image-filled trailer for us while we make our selections.
What ‘The Truman Show’ does best is pose all sorts of questions about the anture of entertainment, creativity, privacy and identity, while still being consistently entertaining. Yes, it would be horrible to be trapped in a universe that looks like Disneyland’s Main Street and populated by folks who are paid to pretend to be your friends, but there would albo be something irresistibly absurd about it, too. The filmmakers get their points across without ever forgetting the inherent joke of their premise.