The problem with this movie, this modern middlebrow classic, is that it never, ever looks anything like a tv show. There are a thousand shots that are supposed to be from one of the many cameras in the Truman Show universe, and those shots look nothing like a television shot does.
If I were director Peter Weir, I would take some time and look at how tv looks, particularly how television documentaries look. I would cut it out with the zooms and jiggles and have a lot more sloppy pans and indifferent framing. That’s what I would do.
The great thing about this movie, this accidental ’90s classic, is this super sweet ensemble Truman Burbank is wearing during the scene when he realizes his whole world is awry. What I wouldn’t do for that sweater alone.
The Truman Show (the fictional production) wasn’t just a reality show though, it was a full-blown drama production. It doesn’t have to look like a shitty reality TV show because it isn’t supposed to be The Real World, Jersey Shore or any of that dross. Christof (Ed Harris) was portrayed as a visionary. He was the Steve Jobs of reality TV, with a science-fiction studio at his disposal.
What’s more important — and what sells the movie for me — is how Weir gives the film an authentic feel by setting limitations about where and how the cameras would really have to be hidden so Truman wouldn’t spot them.
Maaaan I see what you’re saying but it still strikes me as a movie director’s idea of what such a television production would look like. And I know it couldn’t have, like, anticipated the great leap forward in soft-scripted television that began with Laguna Beach (with its warm chiaroscuro, with its fuzzy-grained charms), but…eh. Every in-show shot feels like a half-measure, possible-enough by the movie’s rules, sure, but where there should be flaky sound and untidy crops there are, instead, vignettes and zooms. Just seems like a cheap and unsophisticated to indicate that something is “on television.”
I am willing to be wrong.
I saw this movie in Seattle and afterward, on the walk beneath the monorail back to my car, all of the cars driving along the one-way street suddenly stopped, reversed, and started backing up for no apparent reason. Until my friends and I looked up and saw that we’d walked onto a movie set. That was a weird moment that I deeply treasure.