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Peter Weir's directorial filmography is something of a curiosity. Having been at the helm of some fifteen features in just over three decades, he is not an overly prolific director, and his films cover a such a broad range of styles and subjects that we might be stretching things a bit to claim him as an instantly recognizable contemporary auteur. However, we can assert that there is an almost intangible quality to Weir's releases in the 1980s and 1990s--something about his peculiarly gentle and eccentric heroes, and indeed the actors who bring them to the screen--that is both compelling and insightful in a way that does in fact seem to be solely the province of his films. The subject of what follows is certainly no exception.
In this short discussion we will try to unpack some of the very important (and indeed complex) questions and ideas that Weir has crammed into one of his most successful films to date, The Truman Show (1998). Before we do so, the first thing to say is that any engagement with the word 'real', and the associated problems and questions it raises, is bound to be troublesome, particularly in dealing with cinema, a tradition so firmly embedded in 'realist' representations. For this reason we will attempt to keep our discussion of these issues as pragmatic and accessible as possible. However, it is worth pointing out that consideration of The Truman Show permits the raising not only of ontological questions (what is real?) but also, more significantly, of epistemological questions (how do we know?).
When The Truman Show was released (interestingly, before the reality TV explosion really saturated mainstream television programming), it performed very well in cinemas, returning some of the …