Dark City compared with Truman Show

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Seth Paxton, Feb 26, 2002.

  1. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Okay, watched Dark City for class the other day, and watched Truman Show last semester for another class. Both for 3rd or 4th time at least.

    But seeing them so closely together and perhaps due to studying them for class, I suddenly was kicked in the head by the ENORMOUS similarities.

    Both stories involve a protagonist trapped inside a miniature controlled world for observation by outsiders.

    Both have the protagonist becoming accidentally aware of the unusual nature of this world - "star" almost falls on Truman, Murdoch awakens and interrupts his implant and then sees the tuning transformation.

    Both are then driven to go beyond the boundaries of this controlled world, but outside forces keep them from going beyond by trickery. Water is a common theme as a boundary as well. Shell Beach is mysteriously inaccessible and no one can really remember the way out (they finally do go by water to get there), Truman is foiled again and again in his attempts to leave the island often by a fear of water.

    Both are assisted in their growing awareness by an "outsider", Dr. Schreber in DC and Sylvia in TS. Both of them do so against the will of the "controlling" party and without their knowledge (till discovered).

    Both protagonists can "control" their world but do not realize this at first. Defining scenes in both movies are when these characters do realize this ability. Truman conducts the traffic and walks god-like through the plaza and Murdoch starts to realize his ability to control matter even before he fully understands why. Murdoch creates doors for escape, etc.

    Both are also driven by a love interest (no surprise there really). But these love interests end up being outside their pretend world. Sylvia is not really the character she portrayed on the Truman show, nor is she in Fiji. Emma ends up being tuned into a different persona and is no longer his "wife". Both men end up with resolving this love as a major goal for escape.

    Both films give us an awe and wonder shot of the world from the outside. Both worlds are giant circles, the Truman dome and the Dark City spaceship.

    Both "controllers" end up using knowledge of the protagonist to hunt him down when he ends up on the loose. The Strangers use the memory implant for Murdoch to understand his memories and thoughts in order to track him. They know what he is thinking. Truman is pursued by cameras, mics, actors, etc that allow them to follow his every move (almost).

    Truman is driven to get to Fiji, Murdoch is driven to get to Shell Beach. Both beaches obviously. Both require going beyond the boundaries of their world. Both require crossing the water boundaries and then end up with a wall on the other side. Truman runs into the wall and then opens the door to the other side, Murdoch finds the Shell Beach wall and breaks it open revealing the full truth of his world.

    In both there are 2 main themes - the world is not what they think it is, and the protagonist ends up taking control of what his world will be. Truman defeats Christof by beating Christof at his own game, he challenges his fear of water head on, and then must make a critical decision to go through the wall. Christof challenges him to not go through the wall and Truman takes the final stand to go through the wall. Murdoch obviously must defeat the Strangers at their own game (tuning) and then Dr. Schreber asks him what he will do next. Murdoch chooses to take control of his life (though he refuses to control other people's lives).

    I'm not saying rip-off or anything. I find them very separate films, yet both tackle a similar theme from slightly different angles. That is that they explore man being controlled by his world and then turning the tables and taking control of his own life. The both portray that outcome as a very positive thing. Truman fights to just get the right to truly live on his own choices, Murdoch actually gains the ability to fully control his world, yet limits himself in what control he will exert.

    So there it is. I'm sure some of you have extensive thoughts on this. I'm not really asking to be shown that this similarity isn't there because I truly think it is. I just wonder if there are other similarities or what other people think about this idea.
     
  2. Bjorn Olav Nyberg

    Bjorn Olav Nyberg Supporting Actor

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    I agree wholeheartedly Seth, in fact I've said this very thing before in "compare movies" threads.

    This is probably just a coincidence, but both directors are Australian as well...
     
  3. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    So Bjorn, you had dangled it in my face before yet I totally missed it. [​IMG]
     
  4. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    Seth
    Very nice, comprehensive, thorough comparison of two great films. It just shows that two very similar themes can be expressed in two very different ways and both films still stand on their own merits.[​IMG]
     
  5. Raymond Grimmy

    Raymond Grimmy Auditioning

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    Ugh, no. I think you are only addressing the very superficial similarities between the two films. The Truman show is a deep and allegorical film that debates the nature of "The Fortunate Fall" that was coined by John Milton in "Paradise Lost". Indeed, the film is fantastic in showing the antithesis of the biblical stereotype of Adam & Eve, thus making us realize that the "True Man" left "New Haven" not because he was cast out by "Christ of", but because he CHOSE to. This is because it is within the nature of Man to fail, but at the same time Man also learns from those mistakes - and therein lies his redemption. By living a subscribed "perfect life", there is no true soul. The truth can only be revealed by self-discovery. And that is what the film states.
     
  6. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    Interesting comparison between the two. I think they are both archetypes and that leads to their easy comparisons. They could be compared to other archetypal stories and many other similarities would be found.

    They also hold many similarities with the epic hero-quest or the quest for philosophical fulfillment. Both start in a state of oblivious confusion. They are both faced with a series of character expanding quests where they face an ultimate temptation to turn from the course (the ability to return to the closed universe for Truman or the opportunity to join the Strangers by Murdoch). I find Murdoch's challenges more interesting since each of his quests/temptations have the potential to turn him into a Stranger. However, he is able to resist and take the high road at each encounter and thus reach his ultimate fulfillment where he remakes the world in his own image.

    Both are excellent stories anyway you look at them.

    Kenneth
     
  7. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Seth, thanks for posting your observations! (And to those following up with other thoughts). I enjoy and appreciate comparisons of seemingly disparate movies.
    I'm particularly struck by the similarities in various details:
    - Circular articifical world
    - Water as boundary
    - "Controllers" in mechanical control room, outside of "world" proper
    - "Controllers" in a quest to understand and control human behavior for their own benefit
    Time to watch Dark City again... [​IMG] And maybe watch Truman Show (haven't seen it since the theatrical release)
     
  8. WoodyH

    WoodyH Stunt Coordinator

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    Excellent comparison. [​IMG]
    I'd thought at one point about creating a special shelf for thematically similar movies, as I was noticing a trend. While they don't all share as many traits as DC and TTS, there were a bunch of films that all seemed to share a common theme of the main character finding out that the world they're living in is not what it seems...
    (I may not get all of these - DVD Profiler's site is currently down, so I have to try to recreate my list from memory...)
    Dark City
    The Truman Show
    The Matrix
    * The Game
    * Fight Club
    ** Pleasantville
    ** The Thirteenth Floor
    *** eXistenZ
    *** Total Recall
    * - similar, but starting to stretch the idea, as they deal more with psychological seperations between the preception and the reality, rather than with situations where reality is actively hidden from the main character for some reason.
    ** - in these, the main characters are part of the real world invading the fantasy world, rather than the others where the main characters are part of the fantasy world trying to cope with the invasion of the real world. Similar theme, other side of the coin.
    *** - again, similar themes, but in both of these movies the division between what's real and what isn't real is much more fluid, as is the number of possible realities.
    I think I had others, but those are the only ones I can remember off the top of my head.
     
  9. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    The Truman Show was actually finished a year before being released.
     
  10. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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  11. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Woody, I totally agree with that. Clearly this "awakening to the REAL world" theme has been very prominent in the last decade.

    The Matrix and Dark City parallel is really even stronger, but more obvious as well. Color schemes, the chosen one learning to use beat the system at it's own game, the finder of the chosen one, etc.

    You also left out Sixth Sense, and to a lesser extent Unbreakable.

    These movements in themes don't come about by accident, but rather they reflect some social attitude that is prevalent or a need/fear/etc that is running through the culture.

    One thing might be that when outside enemies were removed, society was able to reflect upon man's existence. Themes of how we know who we are, etc. begin to crop up. Something like 9-11 can also be the artistic death of such a movement as focuses are shifted.

    To me it feels like the next step past cyberpunk. No longer are we questioning what defines a man based on the physical world (Blade Runner). Now we question the reality of human existence (Matrix, Fight Club). No longer does the hero go into the CPU world as a knowingly different place (Neuromancer), but rather is often trapped within such a world unknowingly (DC has the tuning machine even, Matrix, existenz).

    And the cyberpunk drug culture seems to have translated into this new movement. The shots of memory in DC, the pills to take in The Matrix.

    Hey, this is why I brought it up. You can never think of everything, remember every movie, or sometimes can miss the counter points when you start to see something the other way.
     
  12. Scott Burke

    Scott Burke Second Unit

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    Whoa!!! This is getting deep. Excellent thread. I never thought of these things. Maybe due to my never taking mythology, I do not know. I do enjoy this thread very informative!!
     
  13. Richard Kim

    Richard Kim Producer

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    Also, let's not forget Abre Los Ojos, which questions our perceptions of reality, and whose influence can readliy be seen in The Matrix. I think the fact that so many alternate universe/reality type films have come out in recent years has made its remake, Vanilla Sky, kinda unecessary and redundant.
     
  14. Bill Harris

    Bill Harris Stunt Coordinator

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    a little off topic....but where the hell did Alex Proyas go?. he has to make more movies...now [​IMG]
     
  15. Todd Hochard

    Todd Hochard Cinematographer

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    Man! I GOTTA quit watching movies, mouth agape, drooling...
    Excellent! I have nothing to add. Tawk amongst yaselves![​IMG]
     

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