Noise (2007)

 “If you were a fuckknuckle all your life, that would be hell.”

“Not catching too many crims, are you?”

Noise is this month’s selection from the Film Movement DVD-of-the-month club. As I noted in an earlier post, foreign or independent films never arrive at my local cinema, and since I really enjoy the titles selected by Film Movement, I decided to sign on with their DVD club. Monthly membership works out to be less than the cost of two cinema tickets.

noiseNoise from Australian writer/director Matthew Saville is nothing short of brilliant. That said, I will add that after watching this stunning film, I toodled across the Internet to see what reviewers were saying. I was surprised to read some lukewarm reviews of this wonderful film, but after chewing this over, I’ve decided that it’s due in part to the film’s theme, which is likely to attract a wide audience–some of whom may expect something a bit less elusive.

On one level, Noise follows the investigations of two crimes that occur around Christmas time in a working class suburb of Melbourne. Lavinia Smart (Maia Thomas) a young woman whose headphones blunt her sensory perceptions, enters a late night train only to discover a scene of carnage. The grisly bloody discovery of seven victims inside the train is followed the next day by the discovery of the body of a missing woman. While the community reels from these two tragedies, residents of Sunshine begin to wonder if the crimes are connected.

Meanwhile police Constable Graham McGahan (Brendan Cowell) is experiencing persistent ringing in his ears. His unsympathetic grumpy supervisor assigns McGahan the nightshift in a community police caravan parked near where the missing woman was last seen. McGahan is the first person to admit he isn’t much of a police officer. This is a career he’s drifted into, and perhaps that explains why he doesn’t fit the mold. Stuck with a humorless coworker and an unsympathetic boss who thinks McGahan is a slacker, this lackluster less-than-gung ho policeman sits out his shifts in the caravan. He’s supposed to mesh with the community, gather tips, and talk to possible witnesses, so he hands out flyers and condoms and interacts with various locals, “Lucky” Phil (Simon Laherty), the grief stricken fiancé of the murder victim, and an aggressive weirdo.

While the film ostensibly revolves around the solution to the murders, Noise is not a police procedural. Instead it’s a character study, and while the film seems to begin with the dilemma of Lavinia Smart, the plot very soon shifts to its protagonist McGahan. Terrified that he may have cancer, and waiting anxiously for a Dr’s report, McGahan hides his fears under a veneer of detachment, but he also fights feelings of alienation and self-pity. His hearing problem is literally and figuratively isolating McGahan from his girlfriend, but forced to sit out his shifts in the community caravan, various characters pierce through McGahan’s isolation.

Ultimately the film makes some strong yet elusively subtle comments about Australian society. This is a society in which seven people are randomly and rapidly slaughtered and a young woman simply disappears. Noise may connect us to other human beings–but it’s just that–noise–a substitute for human interaction and emotion. The film presents a world of isolation: a world in which the stronger pick on the weak, and the psychotic slaughter at will. McGahan’s physical problem may isolate him from his girlfriend, but it’s the emotional isolation in society that is far more dangerous.

The film emphasizes sound elements–and sometimes the lack of them–throughout the story. There are some terrific scenes in the film: at one point, for example, McGahan driven almost mad by the ringing in his ears turns on every machine in the house in order to generate enough sound to drown out the constant buzzing.

Those of us who prefer neat, clear and definitive endings may feel a certain amount of frustration at the film’s ambiguous conclusion. Personally, I loved the conclusion and I think the film addressed the meaning of the ending through textual references that occurred earlier in the plot.

If you enjoyed Lantana or Jindabyne, then there’s an excellent chance you’ll enjoy Noise. It’s truly a superb film. Anyway, for more info on FILM MOVEMENT go to www.filmmovement.com

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