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White Noise review – director Noah Baumbach skilfully captures Don Delillo’s ‘unadaptable’ novel

Never one to downplay the power of film, Stanley Kubrick once said that “almost every novel could be successfully adapted”.

This article was published by The Conversation.

He carried this confidence into his own filmmaking, working not from original screenplays, but from adaptations of novels as different as William Makepeace Thackeray’s historical romp Barry Lyndon (1844) and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955).

Even Kubrick, however, allowed for the possibility of unfilmable fiction. Any novel can be adapted, he said, “provided it is not one whose artistic integrity is lost along with its length”.

The new screen version of American writer Don DeLillo’s 1984 novel White Noise, directed by Noah Baumbach, offers an interesting test case for Kubrick’s thesis.

Some, including the critic Michael Atkinson, think there is a fundamental conflict between the film and DeLillo’s literary practice. Writing in The Village Voice Atkinson argues: “No other living major American novelist has such a distinctive stylised voice in terms of dialogue and character”.

In assessing this adaptation of White Noise, however, we should not be so pessimistic. True, the film has its weaknesses, notably a baggy last third. But if Baumbach inevitably subtracts some things from DeLillo’s novel in reprocessing it for the screen, he adds others.

Focusing on just two of Baumbach’s creative inclusions allows us to assess the film’s strength and, more broadly, to test the post-war French film critic André Bazin’s argument that an adaptation and its source are not in conflict with each other. Rather, they are in conjunction, as two parts of what Bazin calls “an ideal construct”...

Dr Andrew Dix shares why he thinks director Noah Baumbach skilfully captures Don Delillo’s ‘unadaptable’ novel in a White Noise review for The Conversation.

Read the article in full. 

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