The Truman Show

The Truman Show Summary and Analysis of Chapter 1: A Day in the Life - Chapter 6: Memories of Dad


A close-up on a TV screen where Christof, facing the camera, informs the viewer that audiences are tired of actors portraying artificial emotions. He then goes on to say that Truman's world might be somewhat fake, but his life and experiences are genuine. On another screen, Truman Burbank speaks into his bathroom mirror, as the credit sequence (for "The Truman Show" - the television series within the film) begins. Meryl Burbank, Truman's wife, is played by actress Hannah Gill (who is in turn played by Laura Linney). She and co-star Louis Coltrane (Noah Emmerich) who plays "Marlon," speak candidly in a documentary style interview, supporting Christof's assertion that "The Truman Show" is real. From these opening moments, it is clear that everyone is in on the secret - except for Truman himself.

Truman, meanwhile, continues to speak into his bathroom mirror, beneath which there is a hidden camera connected to a live feed. A title on the screen reads "Day 10,909." After getting dressed, Truman leaves his house and cheerfully greets his neighbors. He is about to get into to his car, when suddenly, something comes careening out of the sky and lands on the ground. It is a theater light, and Truman examines it quizzically. Moments later, as he drives to work, he hears on the news that a plane flying over Seahaven has been shedding parts - which explains the light. The radio announcer uses this example as an opportunity to emphasize the inherent risks of flying.

Truman buys a newspaper and a fashion magazine ("for the wife!") from his usual newsstand. As he moves through town, he appears in various awkward camera angles, creating a "hidden camera" effect. In addition, some of the frames have a vignette effect around the edges, making these images feel like surveillance footage. However, the easy, happy "Rondo alla Turca" plays as Truman, polite and friendly, makes his way into his office. Once inside, he huddles in a corner and tries to make a call to the Fiji Islands. His co-worker stops by and shows Truman a newspaper headline reading "Seahaven Voted Best Town on Earth!" Truman lies about whom he is speaking to and then, right after his co-worker leaves, he asks the operator about a listing for "Lauren Garland." This is clearly a secret phone call.

Truman rips out a pair of eyes from an ad in the fashion magazine, coughing loudly to conceal the sound. Laurence comes over to his desk and hands him a file for a prospect in Wells Park that Truman needs to close. Truman tries to get out of it, but Laurence tells him that he needs to go to meet his quota or he'll risk losing his job. Truman arrives at the Ferry to take him to Harbor Island, where Wells Park is located. He is clearly terrified of getting in the water, and as he walks down the dock, his fear paralyzes him - he turns around.

Back at home, Truman is gardening in a bright-colored outfit when his wife, "Meryl", comes home on her white bike wearing a pristine nurse's uniform. She shows her husband a "Chef's Pal" - a kitchen tool she bought for him while checking out at the grocery store. At night, Truman and Marlon drink beer and hit golf balls. Truman confesses that he wants to get out of his job and off the island of Seahaven. He wants to go to Fiji - the furthest possible place from Seahaven. He is hoping to use his annual bonus to take the trip. Marlon tries to dissuade him, saying that Truman's job and life are both enviable.

Late at night, Truman sits alone on the beach. Cut to a montage of a boat trip Truman took with his father Kirk when he was a child. Young Truman urged his father to keep sailing even though the sky looked menacing. There was a terrible storm and Truman's father was thrown overboard. Despite Truman's attempts to save him, the older man drowned. Truman breaks out of his reverie when the rain starts to fall. Truman stands, and suddenly realizes that the tiny shower is falling only on him, and it follows him as he moves, like a wet spotlight. Moments later, the whole sky opens up.

Back at home, Truman, soaked, tries to convince Meryl that they can save enough money to "bum around the world for a year." Meryl brings up the reality of their financial obligations and her desire to have a child. She belittles Truman's ambition and tells him to come to bed. Cut to two security guards watching the live "Truman Show" feed while on the job. One of them comments that when Truman and Meryl get intimate, the producers turn the camera away or play music.

The next day, Truman buys a paper and a fashion magazine at the newsstand, as is his routine. As he walks to work, he notices a homeless man staring at him. Walking closer he recognizes the man's face... it's his Dad. Suddenly, two plainclothes people briskly carry the homeless man away. Truman tries to run after them but various obstacles keep blocking his path, and the homeless man disappears into a bus. Truman watches it go, stunned and frozen.

Truman goes to see his mother, Angela, who tells him that she, too, sees his dad everywhere, claiming these visions to be a symptom of loss. Truman, though, is convinced that the man he saw is his father, and his certainty is compounded by the fact that his father's body was never recovered. Truman's mother muses that Truman still feels some internal guilt about his father's death. She comforts him by saying she doesn't blame him. Truman, filled with emotion, doesn't respond.


Although it came out over 10 years ago, The Truman Show remains relevant and prescient today - perhaps even more so than when it was released. Director Peter Weir and screenwriter Andrew Niccol wanted to examine how the growing popularity of reality television blurred the lines between fiction and fact. Andrew Marantz writes, "Reviewing [The Truman Show] in 1998, Jonathan Rosenbaum expressed skepticism about its conceit. 'Given the number of undramatic moments that fill Truman's daily life... are we supposed to believe that millions of spectators... are taking all this in?'" Less than ten years after Rosenbaum wrote that review, Keeping Up with the Kardashians debuted on the E! Network, chronicling the real-life exploits of a fame-hungry family in Los Angeles. The show is wildly popular, with fans calling the Kardashians "relatable" - meaning that something about them feels authentic.

Televised authenticity is the same reason Christof gives for the success of "The Truman Show." However, from the opening moments of The Truman Show, director Weir draws the audience's attention to the artificiality of cinema and television, despite Christof's insistence of the opposite. The credit sequence for the The Truman Show (the film) is replaced by the opening credits of "The Truman Show," (the artificial television show). Instead of crediting Truman Show actors Laura Linney and Noah Emmerich, the credits name the characters that these actors play - Hannah Gill and Louis Coltrane - who in turn play characters Meryl and Marlon on the fictional "The Truman Show."

Both these actors, along with creator Christof, appear first out of character, and claim that "The Truman Show" is absolutely real. The careful construction of these opening sequences - actors playing actors playing characters - introduces the satirical tone that defines The Truman Show. Weir draws back the curtains to reveal the artificial constructions the media attempts to frame as "authentic." However, Louis and Hannah have been playing Marlon and Meryl, respectively, for years - and it is quite possible that their own identities have become tangled up in those of their "Truman Show" characters. Therefore, when Louis and Hannah claim that "The Truman Show" is real, they likely believe it, to some extent.

Meanwhile, even Truman Burbank's name is a cheeky nod to show business. His first name - "True Man" - indicates the fact that Truman is the only person in Seahaven whose reactions are "true," because he has no idea that his entire life is a performance for 5,000 hidden television cameras. He easily accepts the artificial behavior that viewers of The Truman Show might find strange - simply because he does not know anything else. Burbank is the name of the rather functional city northeast of Hollywood where many major film studios and media companies are headquartered. While Truman shares this last name with the characters of his parents and wife, Truman himself is the only real "Burbank" in the universe of the film.

Weir uses different visual techniques and styles to create subtle shifts in the viewer's relationship with Truman's life. In her detailed analysis of the film, scholar Simone Knox creates a detailed layout of the placement of cameras throughout the Seahaven Island set. She points out Weir's calculated

use of stylistic devices ranging from the wide angle lens with vignetted edges... the noticeable zoom-in... the jerky quality of the camera movement and slight lack of focus... to the noticeably low camera angle, the camera here does not represent the "objective" camera of the traditionally invisible film apparatus. Instead, it needs to be understood as representing (or more appropriately, simulating) the 'television' cameras employed by the program 'The Truman Show'.

When Truman is sitting on the beach remembering his father, the film cuts to a "memory" of Truman's father's death. However, this is only what Christof wants the viewers of the television show (and therefore, the film) to believe that Truman is thinking about. As viewers, we accept the visual language of this flashback, believing it to be a visual indication of his thoughts. However, there is no way to verify whether or not this is "true" - as Truman tells Christof at the end of the film, "you never had cameras in my head."

Later, there is a rain shower that falls only on Truman. He realizes this and moves around, watching the shower follow him. Moments later, the sky opens up. It is likely that the producers would have cut from a close-up of Truman in the rain to the wide shot, thus preventing the fictional television viewers from seeing the glitch of the isolated shower. However, Weir presents the full scene to the MOVIE viewers, making it a "rare moment of authenticity" (Knox) - a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Truman-land.