White Noise

In Blacksmith, a small town in the Midwest, the daily life of the Gladney family runs unperturbed: Jack, Babette and their four children, born from previous marriages. A routine punctuated by television sessions, father-son comparisons, reasoned or unreasonable talks about this or that piece of news, talk about this or that other product and ritual visits to the supermarket, where everyone indulges in the frenetic consumption of objects, messages, noise. A background noise that haunts Jack, a professor at College on the Hill, where he founded a department of Hitler studies. For some time now man has been living in a dull and constant fear of death. A huge chemical cloud, caused by a train derailment, suddenly materializes his anguish, directly threatening the existence of the Gladneys.
After the sensitive chronicle of a Western-style divorce (Story of a Marriage), inspired by his personal experience, Noah Baumbach seeks in the pages of Don DeLillo what makes the specificity of his universe: the description of a middle class (Jewish), the access of some of its members to the intelligentsia, the family tribulations, the Allenian neuroses, the Chekhovian melancholies.
But this time he goes farther, leaving the hearth and venturing into DeLillo’s ‘after world’. The world after the catastrophe, that accident which in a few seconds can shake the comfort of our modern, aseptic and perfectly organized world.
This sort of thing, when we see it on television, causes a vicarious adrenaline rush and a certain mushy fascination. But when are they produced “from life”? What is our reaction to the threat of disorder? When all the shelters and the illusion of being untouchable are shattered, what awakens, to persecute us, is the acute, even intolerable awareness of our fragility, of our inevitable end.
Death, so feared, is the true ‘heart of darkness’ of White Noise, evoked through the figure of Hitler, that of Elvis, of television catastrophes and of the metaphorical one of all knowledge, sanctioned by dialogues, fragments of speeches and replies that they complete the deconstruction of the fragile narrative building, intentionally devoid of a strong and all-encompassing intrigue. After all, the more a culture produces useless objects, the more it generates the superfluous and the more the discourses that express it go around in circles, are emptied of meaning, greedily feed on clich├ęs until they produce sound waste.
Adam Driver’s Jack is the tool for capturing and recording the ambient tone, the diffuse and dissonant noises of popular culture, the information waste, the words torn from their context and the announcements spewed from the loudspeakers of the malls. Radios, televisions, preachers, and other incontinent providers of redundancy are running like the forgotten faucets in the Gladney house. Between the excesses of industry and those of language, Baumbach thrusts cinema and its devouring magic like a rescue flag.

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