After the excellent “Marriage Story”, Noah Baumbach made perhaps the most ambitious film to date, a bizarre combination of comedy, drama and fantasy set in the eighties of the last century, but “White Noise” turned into complete chaos. “White Noise” had its premiere at the Venice festival, and Baumbach himself adapted the novel of the same name by the American submodernist Don DeLillo, published in 1985. And it is completely clear why that novel interested Baumbach, because it is incredibly similar to today’s time, although the fears, anxieties and real or fictional dangers that people faced were somewhat different.
The time of the action is 1984, and Jack Gladney (Adam Driver) is a professor of a course on Hitler at a fictional university somewhere in Ohio. He is married to Babette (Baumbach’s wife Greta Gerwig), who is his fourth wife, while he is her fourth husband. What do they have in common, what do they have a total of four children from previous marriages, and Babettine’s daughter Denise (Raffey Cassidy from Killing of a Sacred Deer) will discover that her mom takes mysterious pills that cannot normally be found in pharmacies. Their ordinary and standard life problems will be interrupted by a train accident during which some dangerous chemicals will end up in nature, and a toxic cloud will form over the city where they live.
Of course, the authorities will try to minimize the problem and will call the disaster an air toxic event, claiming that it is nothing dangerous, but all the same everyone will evacuate and the city will end up in quarantine. Jack, on the other hand, will be briefly exposed to that cloud during a visit to the gas station and will begin to be paranoid about death, and when they return to their house after a few days, the story continues where it left off before the air toxic event. Jack will find out about Babettine’s addiction to mysterious pills and he will try to find an answer to the question of what kind of pills they are and where she got them from. Even before the famous air toxic event, the fear of death will be one of the main topics of conversation in this eccentric and bizarre film, and then all of this will be further enhanced.
At its core, “The White Noise” is an existentialist humorous drama that simultaneously satirizes the lifestyle of the eighties, but also of today, since the town where the Gladneys live looks like a bizarre consumerist paradise where people apparently don’t have serious problems in life, so they bother with nonsense. And it’s all so kitsch, right on the heels of the kitsch of the eighties in terms of clothing, hairstyles and style in general, and although “White Noise” has its moments, I found this overlong film tiresome and below expectations. It is obvious that the intention of the book and the film in a rather eccentric way is to ask frequently asked questions such as what is the meaning of life when we will all die one day anyway or why do we bother with all these huge pills, buy huge colorful nonsense that we don’t need at all? Is all this actually a distraction and an attempt to divert our thoughts from this existential nightmare and the fact that we are getting closer to the end of the road every day?