The Truman Show
Directed by Peter Weir
ERASMUS: A fine film.
LUTHER: Yes, delightful, indeed.
ERASMUS: We agree?
LUTHER: I should hope not. But I am quite sure that you misunderstood The Truman Show. What say you of the film?
ERASMUS: It is quite obvious. The Truman Show is an inspiring tale of our human desire to be free from the tyranny of the powerful and the artificial.
LUTHER: Ah, so my suspicions are confirmed! Your miserable view of free will has clouded your vision. You have missed the true meaning of the film.
ERASMUS: And what might that be, dear Luther?
LUTHER: The Truman Show is about man's rebellion. It is about the costs and consequences of seeking freedom from God's providence.
ERASMUS: What folly! Explain yourself.
LUTHER: First, let us agree that Truman represents the True Man.
ERASMUS: If by this, you mean that he is a representative of all mankind, I will agree.
LUTHER: Well, then, if this be the case, we can also conclude that Truman is an Adam-like figure, since "Adam" does indeed mean "mankind."
ERASMUS: If you are implying that Seahaven is paradise, the garden of Eden, then I most vehemently disapprove.
LUTHER: It is not your place to disapprove, but if you disagree, Erasmus, why so?
ERASMUS: First, Christof is no God. He is arrogant and controlling. Second, Seahaven is no paradise. Indeed, I should say that it is more hell than heaven. It is full of contrivance.
LUTHER: You are captive to your dimwitted perceptions. Christof, or shall we say "Christ of True Man," is the creator of Seahaven and The Truman Sh—
ERASMUS: Christof is undeserving of adoration and worship! Ask any viewer if they felt kindly toward Christof, and you will hear a resounding "No!"
LUTHER: And should this be surprising? Does the average man or woman feel kindly toward God? Absolutely not! The average man or woman thinks God a brute, too demanding and overbearing. And why? Because he is the first and last word! He rules, he directs, he produces, he controls. Was this not the essence of Adam and Eve's temptation? Did they not feel stifled under God's command? What you call arrogance, I call worthiness! What you call controlling, I call sovereignty! You dismiss Christof as a figure of Christ because you despise the idea of a sovereign God.
ERASMUS: Luther, I fear that Satan's power might be deluding you. You are like a young man who loves a girl so much that he fancies he sees her image everywhere. You are captive to your own imagination, your own rebellion. Still, if Christof be Christ, as you say, who is the evil one in your most incredulous interpretation?
LUTHER: The answer is plain to see. It is Sylvia.
LUTHER: Indeed, Truman's dissatisfaction appears when the woman beguiles him. Sylvia transgresses Christof's plan and sows doubt and discontent into the heart of Truman. Sylvia suggests to Truman that his life is not what he thinks, that there is something better.
ERASMUS: You astonish me! You believe that Sylvia, the woman who seeks Truman's freedom, is the evil one?
LUTHER: Is this so hard to believe? Sylvia is the sylver-tongued serpent. She is sylvan, like Nathaniel Hawthorne's devil. If you remember, the woods in Young Goodman Brown represent evil; according to Hawthorne, they are "a symbol of the untamed regions of the heart where the devil roams freely." Sylvia, perhaps jealous that she did not get a bigger role in the Show, wants Truman to exit Seahaven and enter the dark world of "reality," where life consists of individuals looking through their TV screens dimly, longing to be a part of the idyllic world of Seahaven. The truth is, the freedom that Sylvia offers Truman is really no freedom at all. It is a harsh life outside of the presence of the Maker, the Director, the Creator.
ERASMUS: You have reached the end of your sanity!
LUTHER: Let me ask you a question, great theologian. When reading the book of Jonah, do you root for or against Jonah?
LUTHER: Of course, you should root against Jonah because he has sought to go against the will of his Creator. And is this fair? Should the Creator be able to tell a man what he should do, even if the man does not want to do it? Indeed, should the Creator be able to demand that a man obey his will? Should—
ERASMUS: Christof is not symbolic of the Creator! He is a tyrant and egomaniac! He almost kills Truman for seeking his freedom. What kind of God—
LUTHER: This is weak stuff, Erasmus. You not only mingle allegory with reality, but conceive a puny and powerless God, who has no right to dictate over his creation. If Christof represents God, he has every authority to create a punishing storm to halt Truman. Did not God do the same with Jonah? Indeed, Christof proved to be merciful toward Truman, allowing him to live or, I should say, willing him to live. Truman is not the hero in this story, at least not from a heavenly perspective. He is a disobedient and ungrateful rebel.
ERASMUS: Nay! Truman is seeking liberation from an imperfect world of falsity and oppression. You amaze me with your sweeping statements. The Seahaven that you portray as paradise is falling apart. The film begins with a stage light crashing to the ground. What kind of Eden is this? The True Man, the man of authenticity, is surrounded by pretense. His friends, his wife, his own fears have been fabricated. How dare you suggest that Seahaven is Eden? If it is anything, it is Eden, Inc., a poor commercial substitute. The Truman Show is about the innate human longing for the real. If anything, Christof represents the false messiahs of our mediated world.
LUTHER: You misunderstand Christof. He cares deeply for Truman. He knows him intimately. Do you remember what he says to Truman in the end? I've watched you your whole life. I saw you take your first step, your first word, your first kiss. I know you better than you know yourself.
ERASMUS: But not enough to know that Truman wants his freedom.
LUTHER: Truman, like the rest of humanity, does not understand freedom. Before Truman exits Seahaven, Christof says, Truman, there's no more truth out there than in the world I created for you—the same lies and deceit. But in my world you have nothing to fear.
ERASMUS: And then Truman chooses to leave, undermining your gross view of sovereignty.
LUTHER: What is freedom, Erasmus? Think about the possible sequel. Truman: The Day After. He walks out the door and enters the "real" world, and what does he experience? Freedom? Privacy? Happiness? No, he encounters the paparazzi and a world without his Maker looking after him, caring for him, protecting him. He feels the sting of seperation and insecurity. He realizes that he has lost . . . his freedom.
ERASMUS: Poor Luther. I am without speech.
LUTHER: As you should be, Erasmus.