To this day, I can’t believe that The Truman Show didn’t getÂ a 1998Â Best Picture nomination. I mean, really. Elizabeth is good, but it is not a better movie. It certainly doesn’t featureÂ one of the most powerful scenes in recent movie history. And The Truman Show does.
But if you haven’t seen the movie–or haven’t seen it in several years–you may want to check it out before you mosey past the jump.
The scene I’m talking about is essentially the end of the film: In almost complete silence, the long, pointed prow of Truman’s boat slides into view, rocking gently on fake-ocean waves. We can see it’s about to pierce the “sky,” which is actually just blue patches and white clouds painted onto canvas. And then, sure enough, the boat tears a hole in the world.
That’s the most important moment in the movie. It’s the moment Truman pushes through the false barriers that have limited his life. Before he goes, he even has a chat with Kristof, who speaks to him over a massive loudspeaker. Essentially, Truman talks to his god–the creator of his limited reality–then chooses to leave him behind. He walks up a flight of cloud stairs and steps into a completely black doorway. We can’t see anything on the the other side. Neither can he. But he leaves. He leaves.
One remarkable thing about this scene is its continuing silence. Other than voices and the faint lapping of water, there’s almost no sound. For a movie that has spent ninety minutes assaulting us with the noise of fake reality–commercial jingles, whirring cameras, a blaring soundtrack–this is an incredible expression of peace.
The scene stages a rite of passage that many of us have experienced: The moment when we break loose from an old way of thinking.
In our own lives, when we stop believing a powerful lie, we hurl ourselves into a type of void. We see that the world we’ve been living in isn’t so big, but we don’t know what new world will replace it. Still, we step into an unknown realm of new options, and if we’re lucky, we feel liberated.
I liken this scene in The Truman Show to my own realization in college that I didn’t have to stay in my improv comedy group. That sounds silly now, but I let that group define me. I thought it held everything that made me valuable–my friends, my sense of humor, my notoriety on campus–and so I let it shape my world. At the end of my sophomore year, I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore, but I thought I was powerless to do anything about it. If the improv group made me unhappy, then I was just going to be unhappy… because there was no life without the group.
Until I realized that the improv group wasn’t so big. I could tear a hole in the side of it. I Â I could figure out who I was without it.
I’ve had other moments like that–moments when I’ve realized that things don’t have to stay the same. And every time I remember I have the power to create change, I feel quiet relief.
The end ofÂ The Truman Show captures my experience completely. I think about it every time I feel empowered to make a huge adjustment in my life.