The Truman Show

I read FilmFreak’s review of the 90’s movie The Truman Show this week, and it got me thinking back – way back.

When word seeped out in 1997  that a movie was being made about a man trapped in a village many of us movie nuts assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that a big screen version of the cult 1960s TV show The Prisoner was coming down the line.

The Prisoner, played by Patrick McGoohan, tells the story of a British spy who resigns from the Secret Service. He drives home, is put to sleep by gas, and wakes up in The Village – an island choc-block full of disgruntled civil servants and spies who  were taken out of society [by whom we never find out] for fear they might sell their secrets.

Our hero was called Number Six – no names in The Village – and when he wasn’t looking to escape he spent his time trying to find Number One. We discovered in the final (17th) episode that he didn’t need to look too far.

However, back in 1998 when The Truman Show was released we got a family movie that touched all the bases; it was equal part comedy, tragedy, adventure, and romance, plus a nod to the surveillance society we now inhabit. There was no apparent connection with The Prisoner TV series (shame really).

The Truman Show

If you haven’t seen the movie, it features the story of Truman (Jim Carrey), a new-born baby adopted by a TV company. He is brought up on a huge TV set the size of a town that is covered in a dome that mimicks the sky.

Unbeknown to Truman, everyone he knows in the town; his wife, relations, friends and work mates, are paid actors and his life is broadcast 24/7 to the world via hundreds of hidden cameras and microphones.

By the time we, the movie-goer, catch up with Truman he is a struggling insurance salesman, lacking self-confidence, and secretly searching for his first love – an actress who tried to tell him all was not as it seemed. Truman can’t forget her.

We watch as Truman’s discontentment slowly manifests. He becomes increasingly unhappy with domestic bliss, suspicious of his circumstances, questions his situation, seeks adventure, travel, and the girl.

Making everything work is producer Christoff (Christ?) who watches everything from the control room in the ‘Moon’.

Flat earth

I remember people came out of the woodwork saying the show was Hollywood’s way of  tipping humanity off that we were living under a huge dome on a flat earth.

Ultimately, Truman makes his way to the edge of the dome by way of a sail boat, and heads for the door. Will he be any happier living in the outside world? We don’t get to find out.

However, I still think there is an opportunity to put The Prisoner on the big screen – so long as it is done in keeping with the original TV series; sophisticated, thoughtful, provoking, gritty, intelligent, and challenging.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Hollywood is capable of such a thing.

Steve Hart

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a journalist and editor based in Melbourne.

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