The Truman Show

The Truman Show won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1999, beating three other films and a Babylon 5 episode. I have not seen any of the losing films, which were Dark City, Pleasantville and Star Trek: Insurrection, in that order. IMDB users rate the Truman Show 3rd of the year's films on one system and 4th on the other, with only Saving Private Ryan ahead of it on both systems; it is well ahead of that year's Oscar winner, Shakespeare in Love (which is why I'm doing it first).

None of the cast appears to have been in Doctor Who, or in previous Hugo-winning films, but there is one who was in an Oscar-winning film. Muriel Moore plays the (briefly seen) teacher here, and was Miriam, one of Daisy's friends, in Driving Miss Daisy. The Truman Show is her last credited work on IMDB; I have no further information about her.

The film is about a chap whose entire life has been a reality TV show, without him realising it. His parents, wife, friends, neighbours and colleagues are all actors, and he lives in a huge film set created purely for him. And of course he finds out.

Back in the innocent days of 1998, this sort of society seemed like a potential future nightmare that we would none the less surely be wise enough to avoid. But the film has turned out to be eerily prophetic, both with the rise of reality TV as entertainment and with the ubiquity of the surveillance society. The TV show Big Brother premiered in the Netherlands the following year, though MTV's The Real World dates back to 1992, and the Dutch Nummer 28 to 1991.

It's not just the satire, of course, it's the story of Truman Burbank's own conceptual breakthrough, one of the most fundamental of all SF plots; and I could not help but be struck by the similarity between the famous Camille Flammarion engraving, and the moment when Truman's yacht hits the wall that was serving as the sky.

Not going to write too much more about it, except to salute the performances of Jim Carrey in the title role, and Ed Harris as the sinister Cristof who is actually in charge of it all.

We've all felt a bit like Truman Burbank at times, I suspect, and the film beautfilly plays on niggling doubts that we may in fact be someone else's Property. Non-white characters don't get a lot to do, and the women are very much supporting the male leads, but it's not the only film of which that is the case.

So, generally very entertaining, and I'm putting it a third of the way down my list, ahead of The Empire Strikes Back but behind Aliens.

Next up is The Sixth Sense.

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