Last year, Netflix pleased with the adaptation of the satirical novel White Noise by Don Dellilo. In the film of the same name, director Noah BaumBach tried to convey the atmosphere of the book, and a number of critics believe that he succeeded quite well. Note that the novel was published in 1985 and became a classic of postmodernism.
What is the movie “White Noise” about?
The events take place in the second half of the eighties. The place of the story is a quiet town, lost in the vastness of the United States. Life here flows measuredly and unhurriedly. Friendly people, beautiful houses. White-painted fences, cozy supermarkets. A pastoral painting celebrating the American way of life. And nothing happens in this town. No shocks, no disasters. A world in which literally everything is planned, even death and his own funeral.
In the center of the plot is a respectable American family. Husband, Jack Glendy, is a slightly eccentric teacher at the local university. In general, he is quite a typical American, but with a complete lack of taste in choosing clothes. The topic of Jack’s scientific research is Adolf Hitler, and this person constantly pops up in friendly conversations with his colleague Murray.
His wife, Babette Glendy, is a canonical housewife: friendly, with a fashionable hairstyle, caring, loyal and sympathetic. She also loves helping the elderly.
Jack and Babette are also caring parents for their four children. In general, both the place and the characters of the tragicomedy ooze with grace and confidence in the future. True, the man has one weakness. He is afraid of death. Jack sublimates his fear into work and a positive outlook on things.
But the next tomorrow brings an unpleasant event that turned the life of both the family and the whole town upside down. A train derails on a nearby railroad. In the composition – tanks with dangerous chemicals. As a result of the leak, a whole lake of an unknown dark liquid is formed. This event is of great concern to Jack. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the man becomes aware of a certain drug secretly taken by Babette.
The meaning of the film “White Noise”
At the beginning of the picture there is a kind of epigraph: the lecturer explains to the audience that bloody and large-scale accidents in Hollywood films are not a tragedy, but a reason for pride, since the cinema of other countries cannot present such a vivid spectacle. At the end, the lecturer calls for a positive look at any event. Actually, this brief but capacious episode exhaustively shows the life philosophy of the main characters.
As mentioned above, the film is based on the novel of the same name. The director of “White Noise” follows the original source in sufficient detail, trying to reveal the main themes of the book on the screen. This is the influence of television and other media on the self-consciousness and lifestyle of a person. The dependence of the characters on the cult of constant consumption is no less sharply criticized. Under the prism of satire fell the little world of teachers, with an academic view of any event. Against the backdrop of the unfolding drama, the characters continually ask eternal questions: what is life? How to relate to death and how to build family relationships.
Thus, the accident and the resulting chemical contamination are not the central theme of the picture. They are just a background against which the film crew delicately, but at the same time frankly, dissects society itself.
The main problem that is revealed on the screen is some picturesqueness and pretense of a lifestyle based on popular standards. Suddenly, the heroes find themselves in a situation that sweeps away all gloss and prosperity, thus revealing a lot of unresolved, and sometimes critical problems.
First of all, it is the helplessness of society in the face of a threat, real or imagined. The sounds of an air raid literally knock the population of the town out of their usual rut. People who just a minute ago demonstrated unshakable confidence are lost. Someone puts on a gas mask and a hazmat suit. Another cannot make a single independent decision, relying on radio messages for everything. Mass psychosis captures part of the townspeople who find symptoms of poisoning. At the same time, there is no certainty whether chemicals really got into their bodies, or whether this is all a figment of the imagination.
Jack tries hard to ignore the problem. He exudes confidence, displaying a positive mindset, though it comes across as feigned and at least silly. A man begins to adequately perceive reality only when the heavens open.
On the other hand, against the backdrop of general panic and uncertainty, some characters are trying to grab a piece of popularity. They perceive the accident as a high point and expect a crowd of TV reporters eager to interview the victims. When this does not happen, there is no limit to indignation? They say, how is it: we left our homes, why is TV silent about us?
Against the backdrop of general panic and confusion, the problem of the protagonist is sharpened: it turns out that Jack did not fully know Babette, the woman with whom he built a family and raised four children.
Fortunately, despite the rumors and bad forecasts, the chemical threat will pass in a week, and the heroes return home. However, the shocks experienced will leave their mark on Jack and Babette.
Without going into the plot, we note that Jack is facing a full-length midlife crisis. It turns out that it was long overdue, but the accident served as a catalyst that allowed the problem to break out. From this moment on, the rather cheerful tone of the picture turns into a gloomy noir, with all the necessary attributes: night, rain, bridge, motel, weapons, murder. However, no one died as a result of the firing, and the tragedy that is ready to play out before the viewer turns first into a farce, and a little later, almost into a biblical parable.
Movie ending explained
The ending brings the characters back to normal. Through trials and change, Jack and his wife put their fears behind them and gained confidence and new aspirations. But are these really new aspirations?
What catches the eye is that Jack’s taste has clearly gotten better. Instead of an idiotic pattern, his shirt boasts a uniform tone without a pattern. Probably, by this the director wanted to show the acquisition of integrity by the hero. Perhaps this is so. However, what will Jack and Babette direct their strength and wisdom, obtained at a very high price?
But for nothing. They return to their former way of life with great pleasure, thus symbolizing the unshakable cultural attitudes of the United States. Their life is once again adjusted and beautifully arranged, like endless grocery rows in a huge supermarket, through which happy, satisfied and optimistic consumers scurry about. By the way, it is in this supermarket that the family comes at the end of the picture.
Such an ending nullifies all the mental anguish of the characters throughout the plot. One gets the impression that the fear of death, Hitlerology, internal torments and conflicts of heroes are just a whim, a kind of nonsense of the rich who are mad with fat. Here you go. They ran amok, grabbed thrills, solved the problems that they themselves created, and now it’s time to go to the nearest McDonald’s, celebrate a brilliant victory over yourself, and then return to consumption.