The Truman Show - Peter Weir
Surveillance and social control
The film “ The Truman show” starring Jim Carry and directed by Peter Weir, is based around social control and surveillence. Throughout the film multiple scenes show this. The main character in this film is Truman Burbank, an immature grown up and reality show star which he doesn’t know about because he has been manipulated and has been under surveillance his entire life. Truman lives in a man made dome which he has lived in his whole life and thinks it is the real world. The dome has a faux town named Seahaven.
‘The Truman Show’ is more relevant than ever as it predicted the rise of “reality” TV and a society under tremendous surveillance. Our modern world is filled with examples of surveillance and it is fair to say that our privacy has become under threat because of this.
Truman Burbank has been kept under surveillance his whole life in a 1950s false town called seahaven. Truman works in insurance this is one of the first things we know about him being controlled. The directors and Christof (show’s producer) force him to work in insurance so that he is aware of the potential dangers. The first thing we notice about Truman getting controlled is by the water that is surrounding the so-called “what the world should look like” Seahaven island. Truman is terrified of the water because when he was young his father (an actor used as a tool to manipulate Truman to be afraid of the water.) “drowned” right in front of him. The show’s creators did this to make him scared of the water and so that he wouldn’t leave Seahaven. The camera angle shots used in the drowning of his fake father was a high angle shot alongside dramatic music that emphasises this fear. Truman has a flashback 12 years previous to when he was in high school and see’s Sylvia/Lauren. But at this time Meryl is forced onto Truman because she is the show’s love interest, this is another example of social control in his life. Where Sylvia is an extra and less controllable, Meryl uses physical touch and her acting to keep control of Truman.
Later on in the film the audience is introduced to Marlon Truman’s best friend. He is described as a lazy beer drinker with no ambitions. His purpose is to hold Truman back and stop him dreaming big or trying to pursue his dreams, this is another example of social control. Dialogue “ where’s there to go”?. Anytime Truman comes up with an idea to leave seahaven, obstacles are thrown at him. Such as Meryl (the show’s love interest) telling him they have financial responsibilities and that she thought they were going to start a family. When Truman finally has the courage to try and leave and go and travel he tells Meryl to get in and then takes off. Various obstacles are thrown at him and put in his way to try and stop him from leaving and finding the truth about his fake and manipulated life. The methods used to stop him from driving away from Seahaven Island are traffic jams, the fear of him crossing the bridge, forest fire and nuclear power plant leak which he gets stopped at. The dialogue Meryl uses to try and convince Truman to stop are things like “let’s go home where you’re safe” and “I’m going to have to tell your mother”. Explain the relevance of this dialogue.
After Truman tries all these methods to try and leave seahaven he finally has the feeling that not only his wife Meryl but his friends and family are lying to him but he keeps quiet about it. They all lie to him because he is treated like a child because he hasnt grown up and he is easy to manipulate. Even though he is getting lied to it is forgotten that he is an adult and can figure things out. For example the elevator “disaster” where he gets a glimpse of the show’s set, makes him realise that Meryl is lying to him, Truman realises that something is very wrong with his world and the people are in a loop.
Later on in the film Truman has had enough of being lied to and does something about it. He tricks the producers at night time and sneaks out of surveillance and overcomes his fear and gets on a sailboat. He is later found sailing out in the fake ocean, Christof then tells them to turn up the weather so that he gets the idea that he can’t leave. He goes through a series of waves and terrible water and is soon capsized. Truman gets out alive through his determination and eventually hits the wall of the dome with the boat. This is when he truly knows that he has been watched his whole life and has been controlled and manipulated. In the final scenes of the film there is a long shot of Truman walking on a water walkway to lead him to the exit of his world, a door that opens to a black unknown world, and as he leaves the show he says to Christof “you never had a camera in my head” after Christof tells him he was watched since he was in his mother’s Womb.
Real world link:
The ‘Truman Show’ is symbolic to our present world because more kids and teenagers have phones and are getting watched with everything they do on them. Also the pictures and texts can be stored in the “cloud”. Furthermore surveillance cameras are everywhere these days and people are watching our every move because our world is getting more and more controlled and increasingly digitised.
In conclusion, the ‘Truman Show’ is a great film and a great example of social control and surveillance and how it is very unethical. Truman’s world was filled with cameras everywhere so that he could be watched by millions of people 24/7 and this is relatable to our world today with all the surveillance, we are losing our privacy. The film also shows that even though Truman was manipulated to be a childish person at the age of thirty he overcame his fear of the water and figured out he was living in a fake world, this is because the directors had forgotten that he is a human, he is a ‘True Man’.