Table of Contents
Photo: ‘White Noise’
Don’s “White Noise”
“White Noise” was written by Don DeLillo in 1985 and is an exceptional book that shouts postmodernism. I remember reading this book when I was much younger and always remembered the colorful events the family goes through on their escape from sudden danger.
Noah Baumbach has now adapted it to film. There were other versions of the script before Noah, but he ended up creating a version based on his own personal style and vision of the era.
In the novel, the story is focused on the husband, Jack Gladney. In the film adaptation, the story is told from the family’s perspective but tends to veer towards Jack as it moves forward. The family is the gold mine here, with each of the characters supplying important plot-moving information. The script did have some planted devices which made the film very predictable, but the humor kept bringing me right back into the mix.
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Noah’s ‘White Noise’
‘White Noise’ introduces us to the family right out of the gate and that sets the tone for the film itself. Noah pushes us into their world immediately, showing us the relationships they have with each other and how frantic a house of six can be. This is a good barometer of how the entire film moves and is paced very well throughout the experience.
Artistry in Cinema
Noah has a history of working with very artistic filmmakers. One of them is Wes Anderson on ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.’ Noah also claims that his biggest influence is Woody Allen. Woody has always been extremely artistic in his approach to Cinema and Noah is no different in that aspect. As I was watching this film, I constantly kept seeing these influences in this film. Noah does have his own style, and this film is a great testament to exactly what that is.
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Jack Gladney (Adam Driver) is the father of the family. He is a professor of Hitler studies at the College on the Hill. He is a passionate man, that is the primary source of information on Nazism around the world. He seems obsessed with death for some reason, but so does his partner and wife. Babette Gladney (Greta Gerwig,) is a great mother but she seems to have some issues.
The Theme is Death
Death seems to be a familiar theme of the film. There is no life without death because eventually, everything comes to an end. These thoughts permeate the audience as the story goes on. Family is also a theme Noah uses, showing us the perseverance of a strong family unit. The theme of death is made light of through the use of comedic timing and great character acting.
Jack and Babette’s children are Denise (Raffey Cassidy) Henrich (Sam Nivola) Steffie (May Nivola) and Wilder. As the children start to see a plume of smoke on the horizon, the journey begins. The film takes the family on an adventure away from a deadly toxic cloud that strikes their hometown. They only know what they hear on the radio or tv.
As they head out they all encounter moments that tie into the theme of death. Don Cheadle plays another professor at the school, Murray Siskind. Like most characters in this film, he is only there to supply the main character with a means of moving forward in the story. In fact, all the characters are stuck within the plot and do not drive it themselves but are constant victims of it. Jack is the biggest casualty of the plot, and he reminds me of the tragic heroes that Aristotle used to write about. Not in the same tragic way, but through the representation that the character is stuck within the story itself.
The story then becomes more complex as Babette finally unmasks the things she was hiding. The family fights through to the end of the story in only a way a strong family can. The story presents small issues at times, which eventually get completely overshadowed by the toxic event. The story keeps moving the characters into the finale with dignity intact, even through the fear of modern society. Jack is always the voice of calm reason until it is time to take bigger action.
The film is not about anything but about so much at the same time. This may sound like a contradiction until you see it. The choreography in some of the scenes reminds me that I’m watching a movie, which is entertaining. Noah’s artistic take with colors and lighting really amplifies the feel and tone. The manipulation tactics take me back to another time period and really put me inside the world of the characters.
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The cinematography by Lol Crawley was incredible and there were many panning shots that covered a long period of time. The ending scene is a choreographed piece in a supermarket that must have taken hours to accomplish. I can just see the assistant directors giving directions to hundreds of actors as they all complete the one-shot magic they achieved. This is also a perfect way to finish a film with such artistic value and design.
Whenever you have Danny Elfman working on the music, you know you will get the best material. The music puts me in the right mood throughout the entire film, and Danny’s feeling for each scene is due to his major track record and experience in scoring films. There is just no substitute for experience, especially in the film industry. Danny is always masterful in his work, and Noah has proved that once again.
Designed With Excellence
This film was wonderfully designed all the way through. From the production design to the lighting plans, Noah really made a good-hearted film with a ton of laughs. I have said this many times now, but the source content is king. If adapted to the screen right, novels can always be a film story of success. This was a good example of an adaptation, even if it was extremely predictable.
‘White Noise’ is in select theaters now. It will be released on Netflix on December 30. Check out this postmodern comedy in theaters before it is released at home. This is one of those films to check out in 35mm at your best local theater. The style in which Noah uses the color palettes are best seen this way.
Novel Writer – Don DeLillo
Writer/Director – Noah Baumbach
Producers – Noah Baumbach, Uri Singer, David Heyman
Mentioned Cast – Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Don Cheadle, Raffey Cassidy, Sam Nivola. May Nivola
Cinematography – Lol Crawley | Music – Danny Elfman
By Nathan Paul Pasquale
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