Last night at the St Genesius Film Club in Dublin we watched director Peter Weir’s movie The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey. It had been a while since I saw it last, and it holds up to repeated viewing.
In the discussion afterwards a number of interesting opinions were offered. Now the movie is not a distinctly Christian movie, indeed some atheists have argued that it may well be a movie which critiques belief in God, seeing the character of Christof as a figure of oppressive religion (a God figure) which controls people’s lives, and Truman’s gradual realisation of his situation as the rational move away from religion to a life of real freedom. It is interesting to note that in the last scene Truman leaves the set which is filled with light, to walk into the darkness, perhaps an image of rational man leaving the artificial light of religion to enter the real work of ambiguity, shadow and the unknown.
Of course that is just one interpretation, the movie can also be interpreted in another way: the oppression of human beings by a system or society which seeks to control them: a living according to the script. It was that interpretation which was being explored in the post-viewing discussion. A number of parallels with our own situation here in Ireland were noted, in particular the current attempts at social engineering, the creation of a new society, a new way of life, by dominant forces prepared to use anything to enforce their will. This new society, though artificial, would be a little haven, a perfect place where everyone is happy, though controlled. Anyone who protests and resists this plan, the script, someone suggested, is to be taken off the air, removed out of society’s consciousness. Once you have the right opinions, right attitudes and live according to the script, life will happy, bright and sincere.
The emphasis on consumerism was also very interesting. Truman's life was consumerist in the sense that the artificial world around him was built on marketing: he was living in a supermarket surrounded by actors whose main task was to promote products. Even his life was a product - a human being who was reduced to a commodity to be consumed by the viewing public. It is also a good critique of the media and of course the reality shows which were to reach their heyday in the decade following the movie's release.
One has to be careful when reading a movie because we can read a lot into a film and make connections which may be tenuous at best. However, that said, this movie is one about control and the quest for freedom and the truth in a place where neither exists and are so brutally smothered by a created view of reality. And if I were to consider a work which may well be a parallel, I think The Turman Show is a most interesting reflection on Huxley's Brave New World. If you haven't seen it, I'd recommend a viewing.