Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Endings Blog-A-Thon: The Truman Show

This post is part of the cute little J.D.'s blog-a-thon, The Endings. Head over there to read other fantastic posts from across the blogosphere! [There are, obviously, spoilers from here on.]

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), unknowingly the star of a massive, continuous television show, is finally making his escape, and, having weathered the rainstorm created by the controllers above, emerges into the light on his battered boat, and the head of it suddenly crashes through what still appears to be distant sky.

This ending obviously plays up the God allegory that is apparent throughout the movie: director Peter Weir emphasizes Christof's (Ed Harris) omnipotent presence by cutting halfway through a couple of his lines here to show how they echo, facelessly over the entirity of Truman's world, accompanied by a shot of the glistening clouds in the perfectly blue sky. So, this ending, ultimately, is about the throwing off blind faith, as Truman, having questioned his acceptance of this world throughout the film, finally decides to use his rebellious thoughts and act. As he says himself, "You never had a camera inside my head!" Weir's not afraid to be ironic, here, though: as she watches Truman on the edge of freedom, his former love interest (and 'Free Truman!' leader) Sylvia (Natascha McElhone) is basically praying to her television, and even says "Please God!" (left) as she wills Truman to step out the door. Perhaps Christof is right when he says that "there's no more truth out there"- there is still blind, unconscious belief in someone who can manipulate our lives.

The film is also, naturally, about television itself. Throughout the film we visit various international viewers of The Truman Show, who are all on tenterhooks as Truman makes his escape, and all celebrate as he leaves. But do the workers at the Truman Bar not realise that this is their livelihood walking out of the door? Do the two old women clutching a Truman cushion not realise that this might be their last connection to any kind of outside world? At least the carpark workers get it right: "Where's the TV guide?" Television, too, is clearly telegraphed as a kind of religion: people sit blindly before it, believing that what they see is true human existance. What Truman realises is that it is not. How will he survive, is an unanswered question, when all he knows is a world that has been shaped to facilitate soap-opera dynamics?

All this is managed to perfection, as Weir creates an ending that asks questions rather than answers them, gives a traditional happy ending while also leaving worrying doubts hanging around. Do I well-up as the music swells over Truman's tearful, angry banging against the wall (right)? Of course. Do I cheer as he makes his bow- "And in case I don't see ya..."- and McElhone ecstatically runs to meet him? Yes. But do I also wonder what happens once Truman leaves the building, and whether he and Sylvia live happily ever after? YES. (But it's also something I never want to know, so don't go making belated sequels.) This is a film that I have always loved, always admired, always championed. And this contradictory, thrilling, poignant ending is just a part of why.


Dame James Henry said...

Great write-up! I haven't seen this one in awhile but it's been one of my favorites ever since the first time I saw it. Somehow, I never caught the religious aspect of the ending (the TV aspect was obvious to my silly little brain) but now that you say it, it makes complete sense. I'm definitely going to have to see this one again and look out for that.

Anonymous said...


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