“We’ve become bored with watching actors give us phony emotions. We’re tired
of pyrotechnics and special effects. While the world he inhabits is in some
respects counterfeit, there’s nothing fake about Truman himself. No Scripts. No
cue cards. It isn’t always Shakespeare, but it’s genuine. It’s a life.”
Nominated for three Oscars and ranked #172 on the IMDb Top 250, The
Truman Show is a high-concept tale which remains just as poignant now
than when it debuted in 1998. For in true Simpsons fashion, even a film
as fantastical as this, appears to have predicted the future – from
presenting reality as televised entertainment, to fuelling paranoia
surrounding widespread digital surveillance. But aside from being
shockingly prescient, The Truman Show is a rarely inventive story which
leads us to ask poignant questions about our place in the world, and God’s
attitudes towards us, His creation – all within a brisk 103-minute run-time.
The Truman Show’s concept is certainly mind-blowing, but this is also a rich tale which requires repeat viewings in order to spot little clues which not only allude to the reality of Truman’s world, but also help us to appreciate the less ‘flashier’ aspects of the film - namely, Ed Harris’ portrayal of Christof. As the driven, obsessive creator of Truman’s show, Christof wields complete creative control over the production and ultimately, Truman’s life. In one telling scene, He even refers to himself as “the creator”, which invites us to think of him as a god-like individual, especially when we learn that he can also control the weather over Seahaven.
In a sense, Christof is a visionary artist, yet his god-like ways are completely antithetical to that of the one true God. Whilst Christof has, in a sense, cared for Truman from the day he was born, he doubts Truman’s full capabilities and exploits him for financial gain. To him, humanity simply “accept(s) the reality of the world” that is presented to us, and Truman is apparently no different. Instead of offering the now-adult Truman the opportunity to venture out into the real world, Christof goes to extreme lengths to keep him within his prison. In one of the film’s most problematic moments, the extra who portrayed Truman’s father up until his on-screen ‘death’ in the narrative, breaks onto the set and is recognised by Truman. To prevent Truman from realising the truth about his existence, however, Christof orders the cast and crew to remove his ‘father’ and throws a variety of distractions in his path to stop their meeting. All throughout the film, Christof’s actions are deceitful and for that reason, he has far more in common with Satan than Father God:
When he tells a lie, he is only doing what is natural to him, because he is a liar and the father of all lies.”
(John 8:44, GNT)
The truth of this verse comes across most strongly, throughout Truman’s spirited attempt to escape Seahaven, which sees him commandeering a boat and literally sailing it to the edge of his world, crashing into the side of the dome which he calls home. Realising that his world is counterfeit and he is living within one gigantic lie, Truman decides that he will break free from his enslavement and enter into the real world. The fist-pumping moment is iconic, serving as a powerful reminder of the freedom that comes when God bursts the bubble on sin’s binding grip, upon our lives. But prior to this moment, however, Christof sends a man-made lightning storm to try to capsize the boat and prevent Truman from realising the truth. Exerting such dominance over Truman’s life is another cruel tactic of the enemy, who will do everything within his limited power to prevent us from following the Way. And whilst Truman finally leaves the dome with relative ease and defeats the enemy (so to speak), humanity is ultimately not strong enough to defeat Satan on its own. Rather, the Bible teaches that we have all fallen prey to the works of the enemy, when we make conscious decisions to align ourselves with darkness, thereby sinning against God:
having defeated the power of darkness forever.
Today, we can be forgiven and liberated from sin’s grip on
our lives, when we turn from our sins, trust in Jesus’ promise
of salvation and enter into a relationship with God, which gives
us the gift of eternal life. Christ alone is the One who exposes
the darkness and leads us into new life – one that’s never
marked by deceiving us or limiting the life we have, but
always promising that we will have life in all its fulness with Him.
- Why not prayerfully invite a friend or family member who doesn’t yet know Jesus, to watch The Truman Show for themselves? Use the film’s themes to ask them what they thought of the film, if they spotted any links to Christianity and what they might think of the Gospel’s response to this subject.
- If you feel able to, ask them what they think about the notion of God, brought up by The Truman Show – do they think that God’s character would be more in line with that of Christof’s (i.e. Satan) or, would he be different perhaps? You could then ask them what they think about God sending Jesus to be their Saviour – the One who fought for us so that we would be able to hear and accept the truth of the Gospel for ourselves. If they're open to hearing it, take an opportunity to share the hope of the Gospel message with them.
Prior to watching the film for yourself, however, take a moment to pray that God would speak to you through the film. If you feel comfortable, pray this prayer over all of your future, film-watching experiences:
Dear Lord, As I watch this film, I ask that you would be present here with me. Highlight to me anything within it that is honourable, anything that can be used in conversation for your Kingdom purposes. Amen.
The Truman Show is now available to stream on Netflix (UK), or purchase on DVD & Blu-Ray