Despite the real-world promotions and advertisements that almost "give away" the secret that Truman is actually supposed to be living in a reality television bubble, I believe what we are actually seeing is Truman slowly descending into mental illness.
I'm not an expert on what type of mental illness he is suffering from, I'll leave that to someone else, but I believe I can show examples of what I believe is truly going on behind the scenes of the Truman Show.
A cautionary tale concerning the paparazzi and our obsession with fame and reality TV? A man who is battling mental illness? Or a man who is struggling and finds God at the end as his savior?
General thoughtsTruman lives a sad pathetic do-nothing life. His delusion is literally the manifestation of a man whose life is not worth watching, believing that he actually is important enough that the whole world watches and hangs on his every move. This fantasy gives his life purpose and meaning. His psychological scarring to prevent his leaving the island is now not his fault. It was imposed on him by his handlers, so instead of being a suffering loser he is an abused martyr.
- I know as the viewer we are supposed to "suspend our disbelief" with this premise, but if you think about it in a practical sense, why would this show that is supposed to be the #1 show in the world, actually exist as such? Truman does not have an interesting life. I could see if his life was Hugh Hefner, or Bear Grills, or anyone who actually did something interesting, entertaining or laudable. Think about it; even if you were a fan of Hugh Hefner, would you watch his life 24/7 as the entire world seems to do with Truman?
- Everything we see in Truman seems to happen over a 24-48 hour timespan. How can Truman go his entire life never knowing his status and, apparently, there being no clues for him to grasp, and then everything goes wrong and he gets all these clues at the same time? It starts with the prop-light that falls from overhead that the radio later tells us came from a passing airplane. Why is this so far-fetched? Debris falls from overhead machinery and planes in a busy city all the time. So if my house gets hit with a piece of debris from a plane I am actually supposed to understand that I am in a TV show?
- There is a scene as he drives to work one morning with the camera looking at him from behind the radio dials. Truman accidentally overhears the radio chatter that follows him until they change frequencies. Again, think on that coincidence. He turns on to a street at the same time he hears someone on the radio say the street name. Why is that at all remarkable? Have you ever hummed a song and then it comes on the radio or TV? Have you ever wondered "what happened to Kevin." and then Kevin calls you out of the blue for no reason? This scene that shows everyone in Truman's world having an earpiece is also critical to my next point:
- After he begins to "suspect", he traps his wife in the car and tells her to watch as he predicts the movements of a woman on a bike and a car with a dented fender that are on a "loop" and are repeating their movements. We already know there are cameras in the car and that everyone in the world can see and hear Truman, so if he told his wife to look for the lady and the car, why couldn't the repeating actions be changed or called off? Surely the "actors" in his world know where he is at all times so why would anyone obviously "circle" him repetitively and suspiciously and not know enough to vary the routine. Surely Kristoff would have told them to stop.
- It is the same with the Bus Scene. Truman, even more suspicious, wanders in a daze into the street and a bus stops so it doesn't hit him. He holds up his hand to "make" the bus and a passing car stop, which they do, supposedly proving the point to Truman. Again, what do you think would happen if I wandered into the street today and held up my hand? Watch the scene again. No one in that scene does anything untoward or abnormal. They all respond exactly how they would if a real person did that to them in real life.
- It's the same when he walks into the high-rise and sees a false back to an elevator and he hits a man in the butt with his briefcase as he runs away. If you were an "actor" in this world, it's possible, and even likely for some people that Truman will interact with them. A man he bumps into on the street, people in traffic, colleagues at work etc. He's likely to need to interact with people. So why wouldn't these people be told to act "normal"? The fellow could have objected or at least responded; "Hey" and that would have been a more normal response. And as for the elevator itself, it again assumes that in a world where everyone is focused on Truman, no one thought enough to lock the door, or to not pull away the back of the elevator prop etc.
- We see a scene where everyone in sight is staying perfectly still. Men in mid-step, women on bikes but stopped. People are frozen waiting for the arrival or Truman so they can start to move however they are supposed to move. If this was a set or stage, wouldn't people be chatting? Or having a smoke? Or dpoing something more normal before the director yells "Action"?
- And about the girl that Truman falls in love with. Lets examine that relationship for a second. She is a "trouble maker", she gets hustled off away at the dance so she can't talk to Truman and expose his truth. She is obviously a threat and is taken from him. Are we then supposed to believe that this same girl is "accidentally" sitting next to Truman at the library the following night? Why would the producers allow that, knowing she is a risk? It just would not happen in an organized controlled and structured world like Truman's.
- Even in how people, the few that there are, try to warn Truman or make him aware. They speak very cryptically with no clear message, or they speak with words that can be interpreted different ways. Why does the girl whisper to Truman at the library when she tries to warn him? If she's saving him and blowing his cover, so to speak, why whisper and be all shy about it? Why not just shout it plainly and clearly? Couldn't she have told him when they were on their way to the beach? How long does it take to say; "I know this sounds nuts, but you're really the central point of a live television program. We are all actors, you are kept unaware". Instead people shout out generalities like "Truman, its not real" and "Truman don't listen to them they lie" and other things that he dismisses. The statement XXX's father says when he grabs her from the beach "She has episodes and does this all the time" might actually be a true response.
- Commercial talk is not as "rare" as you might think. Just being aware of it, it does not take long before you hear someone around you say something that is close to TV speak. Someone raves about a new device, or clothing, it happens all the time. So Truman's friend looking at him and saying "That's a beer" in the context of the movie is supposed to be telling, but people say things like that all the time.
- Kristoff - simply put, is God. "Kristoff", Krist", "Christ". The man who controls everything. Think about their control room for a moment. In a "show" that probably takes more money and resources than most small countries, we see that there are 3 people in the control room making decisions for Truman. 3! I work in a retail store that does 5K on an average day and we have 6 people working for us. The God theory is very plain at the end when Truman hears Kristoff speaking through a loudspeaker. This is an obvious God metaphor if there ever was one. The all-knowing voice of God and the man beneath asking for guidance.
The Interesting thing is that once Truman "leaves" his show, if this would happen in the real world, he would achieve instant wealth and fame and be put under another microscope as the famous are today. Perhaps less invasive as the one in his bathroom but not far off.