The Concept of Truth in "The Truman Show" and "The Matrix"

Both The Matrix and The Truman Show utilise symbolism, colour, and allegory to convey the greater concept of truth and perception in their respective film. Weir’s 1998 film, The Truman Show, is primarily a comedy-drama, while sharing elements of a sci-fi film. Meanwhile, The Matrix, directed by the Wachowski siblings during 1999, is predominantly from sci-fi genre. Overall, these techniques illustrate the main characters struggle to overcome their fabricated reality and seek the truth and freedom that they desire.

Symbolism within both films is utilised to convey the greater concept of the characters overcoming their struggles within their fabricated reality, in order to seek freedom, truth, and power over their lives. The Truman Show applies symbolism in ways that both differ and coincide with The Matrix. For example, within The Truman Show, the ‘sea’ is both a symbol of Truman’s confinement, and of his freedom. Similar to the computer programming of The Matrix. Meanwhile, the creation of Sylvia’s face through tearing magazines exemplifies Truman’s capability to evade the control of Christof. Moreover, the final scene of The Truman Show where Truman is on the boat which sails to the wall of the dome exercises symbolism, to provide the audience a greater understanding. Within this particular scene, Truman is imprisoned by the weather, rope, and waves. Truman, in this scene, is also confined by his fear of the water for which he requires to overcome before seeking freedom. Concentrating on Truman’s boat, which is named The Santa Maria – that was also the name provided to one of Christopher Columbus’s ships utilised to explore the world – was intended to represent Truman’s desire to explore the world surrounding him. As the scene progresses, and the sun breaks through the cloud, and Truman experiences a gentle shower of rain, which may indicate his journey to freedom as he overcomes and perseveres through the onslaught of struggles, he experiences. More importantly, the sky of the dome, in a way, can be perceived as the shell of an egg which he must break through to be reborn into a true reality. Similarly, The Matrix explores the concepts of rebirth into a true reality as Neo breaks free of the pod that confines him within the computer program. Recounting the final scene of The Truman Show once again, where Truman hits the end of the world he has known since birth, when he is finally able to understand the entire truth. As Truman goes to leave the dome, Christof talks through speakers which allows him to assume a god-like role in Truman’s life, once again. This particular conclusion can also be drawn from The Matrix, where Morpheus is a wise and guiding character to Neo. More specifically, within The Matrix, mirrors are representative of truth, this particular artistic decision was made because the reflection within a mirror cannot be morphed into a desired vision, they will only show what appears in front of the mirror. An additional example of symbolism within the film is the sunglasses that both the protagonists and antagonists wear. These accessories portray the idea that the characters must shield their eyes from the false world that appears to surround them. Notably, when the character’s neglect to wear the glasses, moments of truth follow. For example, when Agent Smith’s glasses are removed to share his true intentions and beliefs with Morpheus. Additionally, the scene where Neo is able to shatter a lens of the Agent Smith’s glasses, which alludes to Neo’s power to show others the truth, even those ensnarled by the computer program. Evidently, the symbolism technique interacts closely with the directors use of colour to further assist the audience is grasping the ideas that are intended to be explored.

Within both films, differing colour pallets are utilised to demonstrate character emotions when struggling to understand and overcome their false reality. Bright primary colours are prominent within the set of The Truman Show to convey the fake reality that Truman lives in. These colours are blatant in the costuming and set design. Overall, providing a 1950s sense that is deemed to be ideal from Christof’s point of view within the film. Moreover, the intense colours of the set comparable to the less prominent colour of the world outside the show, which further communicates the idea of the fake reality. More specifically, the colour red, as mentioned previously can be observed in the film as Truman begins to realise his reality is indeed fake. For example, following his father’s reappearance after 22 years, all characters who are meant to assist him are costumed in red. The colour red is believed to have a powerful impact and physical effect in increasing pulse. Therefore, directors of the film may have intended to utilise this colour to manipulate the audience to believe time is progressing faster that it is. Additionally, yellow within the film is utilised to portray the both the comfort of Truman and during moments of revelation. For example, when Truman decides to run away and he informs Meryl he feels as though he is being followed, he wears yellow. Moreover, within the first scene, everyone is clothed in red when Truman wears yellow. It is in these minute details of colour; one can understand the decision of the directors to allude further to the sugar-coated reality of The Truman Show. Whereas, The Matrix primarily uses the colours red and blue to refer to the overarching theme of truth and perception, more specifically, the truth about reality and the reality itself. A major example of this is the blue and red pill. Where red alludes to the perception of truth while blue would allow Neo to return to his believed reality. Furthermore, as the audience observes the world outside the Matrix, this is prominently darker shades of blue to grey, similar to the less saturated colour outside of the Truman Show. Whereas, green within The Matrix is intended to indicate the truth, an example can be extracted from the “Neo’s the One” scene where Neo is able to differentiate what he sees in the matrix as opposed to the truth. Moreover, both films utilise the colour black to emphasize power and strength. This is observed in the scene when ‘agents’ in The Truman Show remove Truman’s father from the set. Additionally, when Truman leaves the show, he is clothed in black, as if he is taking his life in his own hands. Whereas, the Neo, who initially is costumed in clean cut office wear adopts a more edgy appearance in black, portraying a similar idea to The Truman Show. Overall, the use of both colour and symbolism allow the directors to further exercise allegory in their films.

The use of the allegory technique further allows the directors of both The Matrix and The Truman Show to allude to the Allegory of the Cave which explores the ideas of rebirth into a true reality. As observed extensively throughout The Truman Show, the idea of the Allegory of the Cave is portrayed through features of the film. For example, within The Truman Show, the water can be viewed as the shackles for which Truman fears. A blatant extract from the film when Truman understands the ‘truth’ is when he sails to the dome wall. This section shares similarities to the Allegory of the Cave when the prisoner sees the sun and understand that the cave is not the true reality. In a way, the dome in which Truman is subject to is the cave, with everything he believes to be his reality, the shadows. Similarly, The Matrix also utilise the allegory technique to portray themes of truth and perception. Within The Matrix, the main character is trapped within a false reality created by a computer program. Therefore, the shackles can be interpreted as the computer program while the sunlight is the reality outside of the Matrix. Hence, the shadows within The Matrix is the false reality shown through the computer program.

Both films, The Matrix and The Truman Show utilise symbolism, colour, and allegory to further enhance the audiences understanding of the characters recognition of their false reality and battle to overcome the challenges that face them on their journey to seek the truth about their world. Moreover, while similarities can be drawn from each film, they illustrate completely diverse storylines that are typically a product of their different genres. This manipulation of the audience allows the directors of each film to convey their respective morals. 

07 July 2022
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