Directed by Peter Weir, The Truman Show tells the story of Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), a man who seems to be living the dream. However, something feels off. As he begins to break ‘the rules’, he slowly begins to realize that his life is comprised by a non-stop television show directed by Kristoff (Ed Harris). But as he pulls back the layers of the conspiracy, Truman’s world is shaken, leaving him to wonder what matters most in the world.
Admittedly, ‘25th anniversary releases’ such as this are often dripped in nostalgia. Titles that are re-released usually target people who remember their experience fondly and purchase it to show their kids. What’s more, rarely do the films hold up as effectively as they once did, revealing old psychological paradigms or even stereotypes that would likely make the next generation cringe.
But here’s the thing. Surprisingly, The Truman Show has aged really, really well.
Released in 1998, The Truman Show was praised for its innovation and storytelling. Dealing with ideas about commercialization of humanity and the power of the media, Truman seemed almost ahead of its time, especially considering that ‘reality tv’ was only in its infancy. (To be fair, Matthew McConaughey’s EdTV was released in theatres around the same time and dealt with similar themes.) But this was the era before social networks like YouTube, Facebook and TikTok took over our lives.
Back then, a man’s world being orchestrated for viewership was a wild idea. Today, it’s called Monday.
In this way, Weir’s script remains incredibly poignant and, arguably, more relevant today. What is real when one’s life is spent primarily on screen? When pressed on the matter, Kristoff suggests that ‘Truman is what was real’ about his show. Although the people around him may be living fictional lives, his responses are always from a place of authenticity. (After all, he is the ‘true man’.) For Kristoff, what makes great television is the reality of the human experience. If he has to blur the lines of truth to see that, so be it.
But its this passion for what is and isn’t true that fuels The Truman Show. Despite the fact that his world seems perfect, the film never lets us believe that Truman’s onscreen life is all that matters. He may have everything anyone could ever want: a great job, marriage, friends and home with a white-picket fence.
But his soul is empty.
Though he’s literally living the American Dream, he’s looking for something to replenish his spirit. His life is devoid of meaningful love and relationships. A trip to Fiji remains a pipe dream. His life may seem perfect but, to Truman, it has become a prison.
Though, as he begins to put the pieces together and fights back against the all-powerful Kristoff and his machinations, Truman becomes increasingly strengthened. His ‘true man’ wants to know what’s real—and he will do whatever it takes to discover it. If anything, this sort of messaging rings truer now than it ever did in the late 90s. In a world of ‘fake news’ and artificial intelligence, the quest of the human soul has become more necessary than ever. In many ways, we’ve all become Truman, scratching and clawing at a world that seems unwilling to get behind what’s on screen.
We’re always onscreen and always ‘on’—but still we are left wanting.
In terms of the disc itself, there isn’t a lot that’s new here. Features have been re-released that tell stories about how the film was made that offer insight but there aren’t many things to get excited about. (One could only dream for a commentary by Weir himself to be included but alas, it remains enough.) However, what makes the film worth the purchase is its transfer. The film’s crisp lines and neutral colours look even eerier in 4K, leaning into the film’s desire to create a clean and ‘perfect’ world for Truman.
But, most of all, The Truman Show deserves another look because of its brilliant script. Though 25 years may have passed, time has certainly been good to it.
The Truman Show – 25th Anniversary Edition is available on 4K on Tuesday, July 4, 2023.