Ray: Hello Truman.
Truman: Hello Ray.
A: We’re at the festival’s gala off*, in the Japanese garden of the Villa Champfleuri in full bloom, a beautiful place. As I was packing to come, a little bird told me you’d be there too.
T: Yes, when I saw the poster of the festival, I thought: they haven’t forgotten. Let’s see what’s left. And then Thierry (Frémaux)* called me to invite me. He was the one who had the idea for the poster.
A: When I saw T. Burbank on the list of the gala off, my neurons popped! You didn’t change your surname.
T:No, I haven’t changed it. I don’t feel the need to hide.
A: You left the Truman show through the back door 24 years ago. I guess you’ve taken a step back.
T: Yes and no. I’ve lived in the “real world”. But the show is not over. It never stops. The little door, yes, the one at the top of the steps of the poster. I had a long chat with Thierry earlier about the text he wrote for the public presentation of the poster.
A: Wait, I’m looking it up on my phone… here it is: “Steps that lead to revelation. A poetic celebration of the elusive and of freedom. An ascent to overlook the past and move towards the promise of renewal. Don’t you agree?
T: What I experienced after opening that door is a thousand miles from the lyricism of that description. However, I can’t deny that there is some truth in it. Yes, I had an epiphany, with a capital E. I flirted with the elusive and touched what could be called a certain freedom. As for the promise of renewal, it seems to me that I am the same today as I was 24 years ago. A being in search of meaning, in search of his true identity, like an amnesiac whose only memories are questions: Who am I? What should I do with my life? Are there still limits, even far away?
Is love stronger than anything? Can all wounds be healed? Does freedom really exist? I’ve been asking myself these questions for 24 years without any answers.
R: So what happened to you after you opened the door?
T: The studios took care of me. They found me a nice house in Yosemite. There was a nice little team there to help me get my bearings. They were very attentive, especially Elliot, the cook. He came to cook once a week. We cooked and talked. It was very good for me. Later on he told me that he was also a psychiatrist. His honesty brought us closer together. I didn’t want to see Meryl anymore. She was depressed anyway, in an institution. It was harder for her than for me. We got divorced through lawyers.
A: And Christoph?
T: I was very angry with him for years. He became a ghost that haunted my nights. Fortunately, I found Lauren again, thanks to the studios. She helped me a lot. In 2004, we got married and moved to New Orleans, far from LA. Jonathan was born in 2005. He is 17 years old and is preparing for nursing school.
A: Jonathan? That reminds me of one of my favourite movies, Jonathan Livingstone the Seagull.
T: His middle name is Livingstone.
A: The breath of freedom has found its way into your life, it seems.
T: It’s such a powerful yearning in me. I can’t ignore it; it’s the ultimate anti-amnesia! Yes, as you say, it’s a breath, out of time, that dissolves identities, realities, that sweeps past and future, in a moment that has no beginning and no end. Perhaps that is the promise of renewal?
R: Professionally, have you renewed yourself too?
T: Absolutely not! (laughs) I got a job at a small insurance company in the Treme area. But there, people had nothing to insure, except their misery. This was in June 2005, three months after Jonathan was born. On August 30, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and devastated everything. We left everything behind. When we got to Annapolis Maryland, the car ran out of gas. I called the studios. They found us a flat the same day! We were safe, but traumatized. The ghost of Christoph came back to haunt my nights. Lauren couldn’t calm me down anymore. I became interested in the occult. I wanted to understand. I tried all sorts of strange practices. Jonathan was sleepwalking. Lauren was scared. She went with Jonathan to an aunt who had a farm in Montana. I was left alone, with my ghosts and my clocks going off. On the advice of a friend from an esoteric circle, I went to India. And there, with a blow, it was a true revelation. After a few meetings with Westerners in the middle of a mystical trip, I was introduced to a Guru who was running an Ashram.
He taught me many things: about life, about beings, fears, desires, healing forces. I learned that Spirit dominates matter, space and time. That we don’t connect to spirit, but spirit connects to us, when we are ready… (silence)… I cried a lot. He called me Truthman, the truth man. “Truth is the only way”, he said. I stayed almost a year in the Ashram. Then one day the Guru announced to me, “Now you can go back to where you came from”. It must have been a double or triple entendre, but I took it at face value. I had nothing left, no money and no luggage. I called Elliot who booked me a plane ticket. I landed at LA in my orange tunic, six-month-old beard and long hair that smelled of incense. I was another man, but who was I really? Still no answer. Christoph’s ghost had not liked the Ashram. I had chased him away in a memorable yoga session.
A: So back to LA in 2006, that’s a big contrast to India, right?
T: I was ready. I cut my hair and beard, little by little, inch by inch, without rushing. The studios, again, had found me a lodge in the north of LA, on a hill, with a view of the ocean. It was a dream. I walked a lot, took long solitary walks thinking about everything and nothing. Elliot would come over once a week, on Fridays, for a stew night. Just like before. One day he came with a personal development coach, Ben. Ben was looking for an assistant. I said okay. He trained me and I started practicing with him. The clients liked me and Ben told me I was very good. I continued. I had confidence in myself. But I missed Lauren and Jonathan. So I went to visit them in Montana. I rented a bungalow in a campground for a week. Jonathan and I hit it off, but Lauren was on the fence. I liked the place. I rented a cottage on the edge of the forest. I still live there. It’s quiet, the people are nice, there’s a good spirit of support. No one is a stranger to anyone else. Over there, I’m just Truman. For them, the show is over. I’ve reconnected with Lauren, but we each keep our independence. She’s very strong mentally, but she’s been through a lot, too. She’s my fairy godmother, she’s the one who opened my eyes and my heart, in Seahaven*.
A: The artificial paradise designed by you know who. And for you? You told me earlier “the show isn’t over, it never stops”. What do you mean by that ?
T: It’s hard to explain. It’s a state of life, a state of consciousness. I lived for thirty years in a closed, fictitious universe, which was for me the only reality. A powerful force, which I now call the force of truth, was activated in me, and I discovered the deception. I came out of it, of course, but I have the curious impression that on that day I crossed the threshold of another, bigger deception, with more people in it, all Trumans like me. With a mega-Christoph, who’s in charge, somewhere up there!
A: So you’re still looking for a staircase? (laughs)
T: A staircase… There are not only stairs. There are also ropes. I’ve grabbed one, the rope of truth. As long as I’m holding it, I’m in the show, but I’m not in the show anymore.
A: Ah, so there it is, the promise. As long as there is truth, there is hope… ?
T: That’s well said. Yes, it’s true, I have hope. A hope that is like a memory from before birth, before the world. A memory-hope of a life where everything is true.
A: Now that’s a pure Truthman reflection. I like to end the interview on this note of memory-hope. One last question: what was your favourite film of this festival?
T: I think it’s David Cronenberg’s film, “Crimes of the Future”. David is one of the few filmmakers to explore the unconscious through the news. It’s a thought-provoking film about the human condition, and warns of the possible excesses of transhumanism.
A: Well, Truman, thank you very much for being kind enough to accept this almost unannounced interview, and I wish you a safe journey back to where you came from.
T: Thank you for this interview. What magazine do you write for again?
A: For LOGON magazine, it’s a web-mag that questions the notion of truth. And I think you were the ideal interlocutor (laughs)
T: Well, I’m going to take a close look at this web-mag right now. Thanks for the tip, Ray.
* Cannes Festival
* Thierry Frémaux: festival director
* Seahaven: name of the fictional city in the film The Truman Show