Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day 122: “In case I don’t see ya....good afternoon, good evening and goodnight”

I know more than Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey). I know more than him from the start of the film that is The Truman Show, but my hopes from the get-go are that he catches up with me and knows as much as I do, so that he can do something about his situation. Call me an idealist, but I hope that the animals in the zoos around the world get up-to-speed pretty soon as well.

Truman Burbank is the star, unwittingly so, of his own TV show that began the moment he was born. Everyone, including his wife (Laura Linney), his best friend, his mother and the entire population/cast of the fictitious island town that is Sea Haven, is in on it and has been in on it for over thirty years. The viewing public, across America and around the globe are in on it and privy to what Truman does not know, that he is living in an artificial world on the biggest film set on the planet, created, watched over and controlled by the God-like figure of Christof (Ed Harris). Do you think this is a character that we are going to be spurring on and rooting for from the start?

The movie’s themes I think about, when watching The Truman Show, if I stop to contmeplate them (and believe me, with a brain the size of Sea Haven, I do), are mind-boggling and stunning. The parallels with the notion of Creationism are enough to send me into analysis-paralysis, but fortunately the plot moves along at such a nifty pace that I don’t have time to stop and meditate on what all this means to me, my life and the world I live in (or at least the world I think I live in?).

I knew a bit about the plot before I first saw this film and I gradually had more fed to me, morsel by morsel, as the movie progresses, reavealing the truth of Truman’s existence. If Peter Weir had not directed with such a deft touch and had he cast a leading man that brought more dramatic gravitas than the finely nuanced performance of Ace Ventura, the film would probably have sank in it’s own importance and profundity.

One of the many, many reasons that I love the cinema, are the scenes or film moments that - Mckee reminds us - François Truffaut called a combination of “spectacle and truth”. When Truman Burbank, having weathered all the storms that the God of his small world (Christof) can throw at him, comes to the edge and end of that world (the wall of the studio set) and the bowsprit of his boat punctures a hole in that wall, I literally share Truman’s liberation, freedom and triumph. My words here cannot and will never convey what you have to watch and feel for yourself, that is the beauty of what movies do; if you doubt my word, then hurry to the nearest DVD store right now, rent The Truman Show and see if I’m not wrong.

Metaphors, parables and allegories abound in The Truman Show and meaning is revealed to us all, in Sea Haven and the world at large, through this most ingeniously-composed film.

Day #122 Tip: The Revelation Plot
Back to Norman Friedman again and his book ‘Form and Meaning in Fiction’ (Georgia Press, 1975): “The Revelation Plot (another ‘plot of thought’) hinges upon the protgaonist’s ignorance of the essential facts of his situation. It is not a question of his attitudes and beliefs but of his knowledge, and he must discover the truth before he can come to a decision.”

This is Truman Burbank’s circumstance. The central plot of The Truman Show is that of the shape and form of a Revelation Plot, the love story and his quest for Sylvia is a subplot that comes in a third to halfway through the film; it’s upon Truman’s emancipation from his situation that our hopes and desires hinge. As Friedman puts it: “...our short-range fears develop and then are superceded by our long-range hopes - he (the protagonist) is in enemy hands all right, but he has penetrated their masquerade just in time.”

What about The Sixth Sense, A Beautiful Mind, The Crying Game and the proposterous piece of work that is the Johnny Depp vehicle, Secret Window? In each of these films, the protagonist does not know the truth of his circumstances: Dr Malcolm Crowe (Brue Willis) does not know he’s dead, John Nash (Russell Crowe) is unware that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, Fergus (Stephen Rea) is oblivious to the fact that ‘she’ is really a ‘he’ and as for Johnny Depp’s Mort Rainey...I’ll deal with him in a second.

The Sixth Sense, A Beautiful Mind and The Crying Game and are all speactacularly wonderful films, but Revelation Plots? Probably not as the revelation does not come until the final hammer fall of the film, used more of a story twist for the film rather than a story struggle for the hero character.

Why I hurrumph and get all disdainful about Secret Window (Shutter Island too) is because the reveal is nothing more than a cheap trick at the end of the film; information witheld because it suits the writer not for us to know; it would spoil their party piece. To tell me, in the last breath of a thriller, that a character was in a state of psychosis all along and that their alter-ego character was really the killer.......well, REALLY?! That’s just like producing a twin brother as the murderer at the end of a detective story (The Prestige kind of gets away with this but who didn’t see that coming?)

After Robert Louis Stevenson’s seminal and gothic masterpiece, ‘Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde’, no one is really allowed to play that gem of a trump card (“it was me all the time”), unless they can play it with the bravado, verve and genius that RLS did.

Free Truman!

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