The Truman Show (1998)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Ed Harris
Extras: Theatrical Trailers
Peter Weir’s film about a young man who’s life is highly publicized and dissected before the eyes of a huge TV audience has been the box-office surprise hit of 1998. Although the film gathered a good deal of initial attention through it’s main star Jim Carrey, no one was able to foresee what impact this film would have on the movie going audiences and how dearly Carrey’s character of Truman Burbank would eventually grow on them. "The Truman Show" is a remarkable film. It is a masterfully told story about how mass media have desensitized audiences over the past years, and shows how respectlessly these media deal with people’s privacy. Never are they shying back from perversely intruding into personal matters, breaking taboos and ethic restrictions, only for the fast buck and higher ratings. The film also shows that much of what we take for granted could turn out to be completely fabricated because sometimes we simply do not have real, tangible evidence for things we learn. On top of all that, the movie is also quite remarkable because for the first time it presents us master comedian Jim Carrey in a very dimensional and, most importantly, highly dramatic role that finally gives the actor the chance to put the wide variety of his skills on display. For the first time Carrey is not doing his rubberface schtick and is instead creating a very vulnerable and personal character.
Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is a young man in the quaint community of Seahaven, a little island, leading a regular life as an insurance salesman with his wife Meryl (Laura Linney). What he doesn’t know is that all the world is actually watching his life. Unknowingly, Truman is at the center of a huge TV show that started with his birth. Ever since that day "The Truman Show" has become the most successful TV show on the planet, airing in all countries around the globe. His entire life is a travesty, a conglomerate of actors pretending to be relatives, friends and partners. Even his wife is a paid actress on her daily job. His entire world is in fact a giant soundstage with meticulously choreographed events that make up the life as he knows it. Occasionally strange things happen, like huge stage lights that seemingly fall from the sky or people trying to tell him that he is being observed, but caught in his own, whimsical world, Truman never really fathoms out their meanings. One day however, on his way to work, he can overhear a conversation on the radio that clearly indicates that someone is watching his every step, reporting everything he does over the air. Suspicious, he tries to find out more and eventually decides that in fact, people are observing him, somehow directing his life. He wants to break free and tries to leave the little island, but every attempt results in a failure.
Then, one night he decides to set sail by himself to discover the truth of his existence and to meet his maker.
"The Truman Show" is a remarkable film. Not only is the story inventive and quite innovative, but the way it is told is also exceedingly well done. The film has just the right pace. The acting is a good notch above average throughout, and the thought of having a virtual world for a worldwide TV audience’s sake is daring, mesmerizing and dazzling at the same time. In a world where much of what we take for gospel comes from media and not necessarily our own experience any more, aren’t we all prone to be fooled at one point or another? Is what we consider "reality" truly real or is it fabricated like the world Truman is living in? What evidence do we really have for our existence and for the reality as we know it? It becomes blatantly obvious when watching Peter Weir’s film that our entire perception of reality and our world is extremely volatile, and that many influences, mostly media, are capable of beguiling us a truth that has simply no substance. Watching and pondering the film makes you wonder if by any chance you could be part of such a conspiracy, if maybe you are actually the center of some bigger scheme designed to entertain audiences?
The film also nicely deals with the unscrupulous, yet sympathetic, director of it all, Christof, perfectly portrayed by Ed Harris. While following his business interests he pulls the threads and plays with Truman’s fate like an oversized puppeteer.
Nevertheless he never loses his affection and personal relationship to Truman as he watches him struggle to find his place in life. His life is "The Truman Show", but he has to realize that no matter how well you produce a show, it ultimately remains a set-up and is as such prone to unforeseeable events which eventually cause failure.
Paramount Home Video have now released "The Truman Show" on DVD day & date with the film’s VHS version, and it is a real treat. It can be clearly seen as an indication that Paramount’s faith in and commitment to the format is growing. The disc contains the film’s non-<$16x9,anamorphic> transfer in its original 1.85:1 <$PS,letterboxed> aspect ratio. The image quality is absolutely superb with sharp, well defined edges and very vivid and exceedingly stable colors. The transfer is rich, nicely reproducing the film’s colors without introducing any noise or bleeding. The disc’s compression is flawless without <$pixelation,pixelation> or other compression artifacts. Containing plenty of detail and maintaining good shadow information, the disc is quite surprising considering that it does not feature a <$PS,widescreen> enhanced version. Although Paramount has had only a hand full of releases at this point, it is easily noticeable that they have spend considerable time studying the market in order to ensure the highest quality of their DVD releases.
"The Truman Show" contains an excellent <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack. Although the film does no lend itself to overly aggressive use of the format’s split surrounds, this soundtrack creates a very lively soundfield, mostly by utilizing the surrounds for ambient effects. The resulting bustling atmosphere is very well designed and nicely shows how surround sound can also be put to effective use in rather subtle ways to enhance a film’s sonic presentation. The music themes used throughout the film are very well composed and arranged, and especially the motif used when Truman is starting to discover the truth is perfectly building the atmosphere, emphasizing his growing distress without sounding harsh, dark or ominous at all. The disc contains English and French language tracks as well as English captions and French subtitles. A Spanish soundtrack or subtitles are sorely missing.
Sometimes you are completely taken by surprise by films and "The Truman Show" was exactly such an example. The film was my personal movie favorite of 1998 and seeing it on DVD now just enforces this impression. This film is an outstanding achievement, artistically and technically. The filmmakers transcend traditional comedy and drama to create a unique and impressively entertaining movie, making the audience wonder and ponder without being obtrusive. "The Truman Show" is a film you have to see. It is as simple as that. If you miss out on this film, you are missing one of the most inventive films of the last years. This great DVD from
Paramount now gives you the chance to capture the beauty of the movie in your own living room and there is no reason why you shouldn’t give it a look. And if you have never liked Jim Carrey’s over the top slapstick comedy acting, here’s you’re chance to see behind that façade and discover an incredibly talented and multifaceted actor.