Misinformation is prevalent in today's internet age. There may be information from an unreliable source on Facebook, but people might believe so strongly that they spread that information and disprove any counterarguments against it.
But the 1980s had no internet, and people still managed to riddle their lives with misinformation. Don DeLillo wrote the postmodern novel The White Noise long ago, in 1985, but little did he know his novel is still relevant even after 38 years.
So how does a suburban American family wade through false beliefs and consistent fear of death in the 1980s? Noah Baumbach's novel adaptation explores the answer in an absurd way.
Adam Driver portrays the character of Professor Jack Gladney, a professor of Hitler studies at the fictional College-on-the-Hill. He has a complex family: Babette Gladney, a constantly forgetful mother, and four children, three of whom are from previous marriages.
The children barrage their parents with curious questions, and often they argue about the correct answer. Jack grew tired of their bickering, claiming family is the cradle of misinformation.
The regular lives of Jack and his family come to a standstill when a toxic waste-carrying train crashes near their town and spreads the waste everywhere, creating an 'airborne toxic event.'
Jack is dismissive of the danger at first, reassuring his family that the toxic air won't reach their home. But the evacuation of all town residents finally forces the Gladney family to flee in haste. Since then, it's been a whirlwind of trying to find a safe haven from the chaos.
Because Jack is suspected of being exposed to the toxic cloud, so he was quarantined at a summer camp with his family.
Other people face symptoms of toxic exposure; they become paranoid and start to believe this chemical disaster is a hoax. They began to protest and break out of the summer camp. This scenario resembles the recent COVID-19 pandemic, where people quickly became influenced by misinformation and coped by denying the real scenario.
Even after almost four decades and a huge development in information technology, people still believe in something they actually want and rebuff real information, which is scary.
Another matter that is explored in this film is pondering death. Jack and Babbette regularly think about death throughout the film. Fear of death makes Babette sign up for mysterious drug trials that make her forget everything.
On the other hand, previous exposure to toxic waste makes Jack even more afraid of death, and he goes so far as to seek vengeance to alleviate his fear.
This shows that even when death is certain, people still try to comprehend it and find meaning.
Director Baumbach perfectly portrayed the restlessness of the human mind during a disaster in this film, and Lol Crawley's cinematography was the cherry on top.
The ensemble cast, including Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle, makes the film more thought-provoking. White Noise, one of the best black comedies of 2022, is now available on Netflix.