Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Online Premiere: Critique of “Background Noise” by Noah Baumbach (Netflix)

It is a signal that contains all frequencies and all of them show equal power”, says the definition of the term white noise, the original title of Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel and of this Noah Baumbach film that adapts it quite faithfully. This is not an accidental title. Although it is said that the author wanted to name it Panasonic But the company that owns the brand refused, white noise probably defines in a better way all the thematic axes of the book, one of the eternal candidates for the honorary and impossible title the great american novel And for decades it was not considered filmable. It is, more than anything, a story of survival in a world that overwhelms us on all sides, that offers us an insoluble problem (death) and endlessly unsatisfactory solutions.

background noise (I’ll call her out here white noise because that “noise” is not precisely in the background) features a family as protagonists of crossing worlds, of a clash of cultures, of generations, of a clash between reality and the mechanisms we use to shape it. We use it to try to make sense of it, to turn it into discourse – words that define things, numbers that define objects – and soothe our anxieties. In general terms, it can be said that this is a film about the fear of death and what we do to deny it. But notably, it is also a satire on the absurd processes we use and the kind of people we become to achieve that goal.

It is no coincidence that the novel was written and published at the same time that the peaks reaganianos The culture is reflected in many ways along with its nuclear fears of the Cold War—and existential paranoia. Its protagonist, Jack Gladney (Adam Driver, old and dwarf) is a cultured university professor who teaches a subject centered on Adolf Hitler, trying to analyze, understand and explain how he became who we all are. know that he was. He is married (for the fourth time in the novel, here it is not fully specified) to Babette (with Greta Gerwig, permanently good times) and they have four children: two teenagers, Henrik and Steffi; A girl, Denise, and a boy, Wilder. They live in a small university town and lead a quiet and friendly life, permanent dialogues on many topics, sophisticated group conversations that sometimes seem like overlapping monologues.

But appearances are deceiving—perhaps things are not as simple as they appear—and the reality is surprising, for reasons you’ll see. Jack appears to be a college star, still admired by his equally talented colleagues (Don Cheadle, Andre Benjamin, Jody Turner-Smith and a bunch of other hyper-articulate professors), but at the same time he worries. as he discovers that his wife, normally kind and pleasant, is somewhat strange and forgetful. Dennis learns that Babette has been taking drugs. She tells her father but Babette denies it. And Jack decides to investigate on his own what this mysterious “dialer” is, a drug no one knows about.

In the midst of their contemplation, an “airborne toxic phenomenon” strikes the idyllic town in which they live. It is about a car accident—a truck carrying chemical waste crashes into a train and its noxious drug turns into a cloud that haunts the area—which forces the town to evacuate. turns the members of that family into the unlikely heroes of a saga. Typical of catastrophe cinema for which his expressed thoughts and detailed dialogue are not always useful or just … add white noise. In the midst of the chaos, Jack is told that he may have been exposed to too much of the toxic cloud and is likely to die. When? This is not known. some time. sooner or later. Perhaps. not secure.

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white noise A film is being made about a couple who not only fear death for different reasons but see it as something imminent, it is not possible for them to deny it and move on with their lives, Raise your children and the cultural circus that involves and shapes them. Each in his own way seeks ways to calm his anxiety in this regard, both through the accumulation and dissemination of information, and by betting on the consumption of everything, at all times. But the impossibility of doing as they did before begins to destroy them as a couple, as a family.

Although the novel and film take place in 1985, the plot could very well be relatable today. Contemporary concerns remain the same or worse (the pandemic adds up to the times very well) and there are many more ways to cover and numb them, they surround us round the clock from all sides. Delillo somehow anticipates these times, and the film adapted from his novel feels like a journey to the moment when the planet begins to turn against its aggressive inhabitants, when drugs explode in alternatives to numb the senses and In which the media (back then, say, cable TV) command our time and our analytical skills.

Director of family stories frances I story of a marriage Not only does it respect the novel in its narrative journey—summarizing things, yes, but without losing the essential—but it’s also faithful to the elaborately satirical tone of the refined comedy, which goes deeper and deeper without losing its satirical side. gets deeper. The excesses of periodical fidelity damage the stark credibility of something that feels more literary than cinematographic. And this leads the viewer to see the film, almost following some lines of thought of the work, as a copy of a copy, a series of aesthetic processes that create a narrative rather than a story with its own weight. Analyzes the topic. It doesn’t take away the thickness or intelligence of what we see, but it does take us away from the facts a bit, turning us more into analysts than spectators. Suppose the novel also did something like this.

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Working with a larger-than-usual budget – there are special effects sequences and large scale movements of the descent Spielberguan-In, Bomback shows once again that he is a very intelligent analyst and writer, perhaps even more so than a great filmmaker. It also plays against them that many of the issues raised by the novel some 40 years ago are today the common currency of any sociological/cultural analysis that tries to look at what has happened to Western societies over the past half century. In other words: capitalist consumption was criticized in the 1980s in a «postmodern» manner in which white noise Picking them up today is almost a cliché. Until the final scene, almost musical in nature, is engaging in its construction but more than obvious in its understated senses.

In addition, many of the characters, dialogue, and situations created by Delillo and visually imagined by Baumbach retain their wit and intelligence. Choreographed family or academic conversation works (one, in particular, between Driver and Cheadle, compare Hitler to Elvis Presley) and simultaneously become characters who are able to attract the public as their analysis. are capable of) and the long series of “survival” sequences provide visual moments that are as beautiful as they are disturbing. The comedy steps are somewhat more delicate (Barbara Sukova as the atheist nun and the neurotic Lars Eidinger make contributions, but the comedic commitment is somewhat excessive at that point in the story) and the length of some scenes shows too much attachment to the written text. . In the end, what keeps the film this way is that, under all those layers of meaning, heaped with pasties of metaphors and references, the lead pair may feel a desperate need to find a way out of the crisis, a strange Armed Chemistry. From the pain, the anxiety and that “American Innocence” that is trying to find a happy ending to all things. Even if you have to invent it.

Nation World News Desk
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