Cinematic features Essay
With detailed textual references discuss, analyse and review the key but cinematic features displayed in “Pleasantville” and “The Truman Show” The following essay, which I have composed, is based on two important films of the last decade. Their titles are “Pleasantville” and “The Truman Show”. Starting with the “Pleasantville”, the general overview of the film’s plot gets more complicated the further you get into it. It brings up several issues all of which I have commented on in this essay. The film starts with two teenagers, David and Jennifer.
David has an addiction to old reruns of a fifties sitcom also by the name of “Pleasantville”. Jennifer is the complete opposite of her brother, leading a rather promiscuous lifestyle. During an argument, their TV remote is broken, meaning they are unable to watch their television. The argument is between David who wants to watch the Pleasantville marathon and Jennifer who wants to watch a film with her date who is coming round in a few minutes. Then a supernatural event occurs as a TV repairman rings the doorbell seconds after the breakage.
The TV repairman has a common interest with David in Pleasantville. As he sees David is a die-hard fan, the repairman gives David a special remote which transports them into their television, into Pleasantville. Pleading with the repairman to transport them back, he gets upset and leaves them in. Because of this they have to stay stuck in the roles of Bud and Mary-Sue, two of the shows characters and have to continue in their characters lives. “The Truman Show”, as mentioned before, is also a major film in the last decade.
The general overview of the plot is simple for viewers to recognise throughout the film. Set a few years into the future, a fictional television company called Omnicom adopt an unwanted pregnancy in order to produce a television show. This television show would be live twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week filming this unwanted pregnancy’s life. They name the baby Truman Burbank, and the show, “The Truman Show”. The film starts when Truman is in his mid to late twenties with an ideal job, wife and home in the town which is Seahaven. I will relate more to this town in the next section.
All this is, from actors to the weather, is controlled by Christof, the director of the show. He controls everything around Truman and will be talked about more in the next section. The towns of Pleasantville and Seahaven, the sets for both films are similar in ways and different in others. The main similarity is how both are supposed to be ‘perfect worlds’. Pleasantville, the first perfect world, is based on what most American fifties sitcoms were truly like. They also repeat re-runs of these shows even today just like Pleasantville ‘the TV show’ is in the film.
These sitcoms usually featured wholesome American families consisting of a father, mother and two children, a boy and a girl. Their lives were basically the same. The two children would grow up, get married and have children whilst the husband would go to work and the wife would stay at home. In Pleasantville the town, this is what the population’s lives are really like. They also have tacky phrases such as “Honey, I’m Home” used by the father coming home from work. As David and Jennifer find out, in order for these lives to exist, Pleasantville is missing certain things.
There are no toilets, everyone sleeps in single beds, no one knows anything about sex, and there are no fires (the only job the fire brigade do is rescue cats! ). Everyone follows a day-to-day routine and is trapped in it. This world changes though, but for the better or worse? The town of Seahaven is basically a huge set for “The Truman Show” (the TV Show) contained inside a big dome, visible from space. This world is extremely complex in inside and mentally. Everything can be controlled in there, from each individual person to the weather.
The reason why every person can be controlled is because they are all actors, every single person apart from Truman. His friends, family, and even his wife are all told exactly what to do. Everything controlled by one man, Christof. He has many titles relative to this world. He is The Creator, The Director, The Controller, The Mastermind, The Producer and God. He is also probably more of a father to Truman than anything else looking on him as a son. As I said in the last paragraph it is a complex world mentally. The reason for this is because there are many worlds within worlds.
In the centre of it all, there is Truman Burbank. In the next world there is the actors and production crew of The Truman Show inside the film, followed by the audience watching the show inside the film again, which appear as cut scenes inside the film. I think the director has put these in to spread certain emotions into the audience so they can feel a part of the film. Then, outside the film there are the actors playing the characters inside the film (such as Jim Carrey who plays Truman), the production crew making the film including the director (Peter Wier) and finally us the audience watching the film “The Truman Show”.
Focusing back on Pleasantville, you can as the film runs on that the changes start to take place. However minor they may seem they are actually major events. For example there is the introduction of colour to Pleasantville, which before was in black and white. The director uses this colour to express ideas and emotions. It is scientifically proven that certain colours influence a person’s mood or behaviour. For example, pale green is a calming effect where as red is associated with danger and passion. An example of this colour influence is when there is a single shot of a red rose amongst the others in black and white.
In my opinion, I believe that the director has put this in to show that Pleasantville is changing into a more dangerous, passionate and exciting place with it being shown right after sex has happened in Pleasantville for the first time. Other things are also changing apart from colour. For example, the books in the library were empty before but now they are filled with text. The two books mentioned in the cafeteria are Huckleberry Finn” and “The Catcher in the Rye”. Both these books are about teenagers having adventures, which no one has ever thought about in Pleasantville before.
The other book shown in the film is “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D. H. Lawrence who is being read by Mary-Sue /Jennifer after a dramatic change in her personality (covered later). This book is about an affair between a Sir Clifford Chatterley’s wife and their gamekeeper. It ends with the lovers each awaiting divorce and looking forward to their new life together, which with Lawrence’s use of taboo language involved the book being deemed “an obscene and filthy work” and was banned from being sent through the post by the Postmaster, General Arthur Summerfield.
In my opinion, this has also been shown in the film to influence the danger and passion now in Pleasantville. The music in Pleasantville also changes during the film. This is represented as diegetic sound from the jukebox in the diner. Music is often used in films to create humour, express emotions and signal changes in the atmosphere or the film which is what it is used for here. Before the changes the music was middle-class, white based and very bland. As the changes take place though the music becomes more black-based jazz, blues and soul. These types of music usually involve energy, anger or sadness.
Back in Seahaven, Truman starts to get suspicious of his surroundings. A number of things happen here to start these suspicions and increase them. As you can see in the following examples though, Christof always creates an excuse for them. On the way to work, the radio in his car has an error and starts broadcasting his every move. It in fact is one of the production crew saying where Truman is going and what cameras to use. The excuse for this is that there was an interference with frequencies and it was the police radio. It is here that he realizes he is important.
He finds that he can stop the traffic in the street. To Truman this seems silly, but it is actually logical. He is exercising his new found power. He becomes impulsive and unpredictable. His life now seems to have a meaning. On the same day he goes into the building next to where he works and goes to the lift. To his astonishment he finds there is no back to it and there is someone sitting in a chair behind it drinking coffee. It is one of the production team and others hurriedly put the back of the lift back in place whilst the security guards for the building escort Truman back to the entrance.
The next day his wife Meryl says that the lift broke and fell down several floors killing and injuring many people and she has to work on the injured (Meryl’s job is a nurse). These suspicions drive him to want a change and to go after a girl who he loved from college. The girl was taken out of the show after trying to tell Truman what was happening around him. Her supposed father came and said they were moving to Fiji. This now is where Truman wants to go. But things keep happening to stall him.
First of all, he goes to the travel agents, which in order to make Truman change his mind have posters up of aeroplane disasters. They then did not have any flights to Fiji for a month, saying it was a very popular place (obviously making it up). There is also a give-away sign here which few people would notice and that is that he travel agent arrives still wearing her make-up bib from the back. It is hard to tell whether Truman himself acknowledges this. Secondly, he tries to go on a coach to somewhere else and the coach supposedly stalls, meaning the journey is cancelled.
This is also a setup for him not to discover the truth. In the rest of this essay I will now summarise the rest of the two films and important parts, which portray certain themes or messages. In Pleasantville, people start to turn from black and white into technicolour too. It seems to happen whenever someone does something life changing. For example, Mary-Sue/Jennifer turns into colour when she starts to study and read books, compared to her promiscuous lifestyle before. It also happens to David/Bud when he punches someone in the face whereas before he had never hurt anyone.
This results in racism, with between the B&W’s (Black and White or ‘the normal people’) and the coloureds. This is typical to what America was like in the 1950’s, between the white people and the black people, mainly concerning African-Americans. Racism still goes on today as well, which is perhaps is the message that the director is trying to portray. The B&W’s organise a meeting and set certain ground rules so they are supposed to live in harmony with the coloureds. The problem with these rules it that they are all favouring them not the coloureds.
For example one of these is that all books should be burnt, which the coloureds are against as they all read them where as the B&W’s don’t. The coloureds rebel against these rules disobeying them and trying to get a message across to them, painting a picture in ‘forbidden’ colours of this racism. Bud is sent to jail for this, but he stands up for the coloureds rights. It is in the courtroom when members of the jury turn coloured as they see what Bud is trying to say and agree with it. “The colour is inside you, just waiting to come out”, is the most significant part of his speech.
Eventually everything resolves itself and David and Jennifer can go home. David decides to go back but Jennifer stays as she realises she has made more of her life in Pleasantville and at home. In “The Truman Show”, Truman Burbank has finally realised what is going on and tries to escape from his prison. After a number of attempts to escape, all conviently foiled, he finally loses the cameras. He overcomes his fear of water, after he is reunited with his father and steals a boat to escape. The only thing is that he doesn’t know where he is going.
Christof tries to turn Truman back, but his determination is too strong. He makes it through a violent storm created by Christof to sail off into the sunset. In this case, he crashes into the sunset, which is the edge of the dome. He sees a stairway, which he climbs. This is like a stairway to heaven. He finds there is a door, which opens to reveal blackness at the other side. Christof now gives him a choice: to either end his life in Seahaven in this supposed ‘perfect world’ free from all danger, or cross over to the other side and live again in the danger.
He goes into the blackness and starts the new life, ending the transmission of “The Truman Show”. In conclusion, I think both directors are trying to show that there is no perfect world for everyone as the two films showed. Both Seahaven and Pleasantville are like prison cells, and the people inside them are prisoners unable to make their own choices in life. It is for this reason why they are influential films with a strong cast, plots and messages behind them.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 13 July 2017
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