Stream of the Week
This week’s selection is definitely one of the more popular movies I’ve covered, recently being featured on the poster for this year’s Cannes festival, and for once I actually think it deserves the shine. Known for his critically-lauded achievements including Picnic at Hanging Rock and Dead Poets Society, Peter Weir is a director whose filmography is known for challenging the comfort viewers take in our day-to-day life; but perhaps none of his films are as philosophical, as hilarious or as engaged in this exploration of truth as his 1998 comedy-drama-satire, my stream of the week: The Truman Show.
Truman is a thirty-year old suburbanite who’s had no idea—until now—that his everyday reality has been constructed. The entire town is fake, even his wife is an actress, all so he can unknowingly star in a TV show about his own life. It’s hard to find a place to start, because there are so many different ways someone could approach this movie. It can be connected with the philosophy of Rene Descartes, who questioned the very nature of reality; with Plato's allegory of the cave, which did the same; or Althusser, whose work focuses on how media and society indoctrinate us to accept the status quo; there’s even a bit of Foucault’s ‘panopticon’ being explored, since Truman’s every move is being watched and controlled. Ultimately, though, there’s no doubt this film asks why and how, to quote the Truman Show’s director, Cristof (played amazingly by Ed Harris), “we accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.” This has never been a more important thing to think about.
With women’s reproductive health under attack, millions of people still saddled with student debt and wars continuing to be waged overseas with our tax dollars amidst a pandemic, we must wonder the same thing those watching Truman did: how in the world does he not see what we’re seeing? Even worse: does he see it, and just ignore it because that’s more comfortable? Is that what we’re doing? Such questions really stick with someone who watches this movie in 2022-America, and these underlying philosophical points are brought out brilliantly by the movie's formal elements.
In terms of its cinematography, we mostly get the same lighting and color palette of a 1950s sitcom, which is further emphasized by some of the acting. There are also more than a few fascinating shots using a fisheye lens, playing into the whole hidden-camera angle the film takes. It’s a wonderfully-executed look at reality, the media and psychology. The Truman Show is now streaming on HBO Max, watch it while you can!