Author: Deia Valez
Liberty and beauty are two very general concepts that many find themselves grasping for. The two are intertwined more than they are given credit for. Often they are discussed independently, however both Peter Weir and Gary Ross, directors of The Truman Show and Pleasantville combine these themes into two very similar movies, taking place in two very similar alternate realities. The major difference being that The Truman Show creates a controlled, utopian society where everyone excluding the protagonist Truman (Jim Carrey) are aware of reality, Truman must discover the truth on his own. Pleasantville focuses on two characters that enter a utopian society and bring knowledge to a group of ignorant people.
Pleasantville begins with protagonist David (Tobey Maguire) and his sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon). Jennifer being the more outgoing and rebellious of the two and David being more reserved. The pair are magically sucked into David’s favorite 50’s sitcom, Pleasantville. The sitcom depicts a stereotypical American family in a utopian world where it is impossible for anything to be imperfect. As the two outsiders try to integrate themselves into the perfect, Pleasantville way of life, they bring knowledge and beauty to the people, turning them from their original black and white state, to color. This is initiated by Jennifer introducing sex to her peers, turning Lovers Lane into a place teenagers go to do more than handholding. Slowly the citizens of pleasantville become curious about what is outside of Pleasantville. The books that were previously blank, now have words. People are discovering real things such as love, pleasure, pain, and knowledge. They discover the beauty of color, nature, and knowledge, and the ability to make their own decisions and have independent thought. The town is then segregated into those in black and white and those in color. Those turning to color and gaining knowledge are equated to Adam and Eve and the tree of knowledge as David is depicted taking a bite from an apple. This, however, is not the message of the film, those discovering beauty and independence are not uncovering sin, but becoming human.
The Truman Show follows the life of Truman Burbank, a man that grew up in an artificial world created to be televised. Truman’s life is perfect because everything has been planned for him. Truman grows curious about the perfection of his life, discovering that no one ever leaves, and often his conversations with others seem scripted. He meets people that tell him strange things,most notably a girl that he falls in love with, Sylvia (Natascha McElhone). She tries to tell him his life is fake, but she is taken away by production. In his search for her, he discovers that his world is not what he thought it was. His mother is not his mother, his best friend and his wife are just paid actors, the things he uses day to day are product placement advertisements. Eventually, the creator cannot keep the truth from Truman and gives him the option to leave The Truman Show, in which Truman leaves to discover what is beyond the life that was catered specifically to him.
Both films play on the importance of free will and the ability to attain knowledge. When weighed against each other the pain and sacrifice made to experience the beauty and knowledge for Truman as well as the people of Pleasantville.
Deia Zalez | I miss In-N-Out :/ | KXSU Arts Reporter