Noise Movie Review: Initial promise falls by the wayside in this thriller that gets lost in its own complication

Noise Movie Review: Initial promise falls by the wayside in this thriller that gets lost in its own complication

Fine acting and initial intrigue are let down by poor execution and vague storytelling  
Rating:(2.5 / 5)

Steffen Geypens’ Noise brims with much potential in the initial stages. In these moments, it embodies the tenets of an absurdist, psychological thriller set in the Kafkaesque tradition. But potential takes you only so far. The lead character Matthias’ (Ward Kerremans) paranoia and descent into obsessive behaviour (triggered by a past incident involving his father) get lost in a vortex of their own creation. In an effort to be offbeat and strange, the film forgets to tell a story that connects the dots in a plausible sort of way. The acting in this incomplete screenplay is top-notch, and that’s the saddest part of all. For a good forty-five minutes, we stay invested in the character arcs of influencer Matthias, Liv (Sallie Harmsen), his live-in partner and mother to their new born, and Pol (Johan Leysen), the former’s aged father. The consequence to the intelligent build-up is one of the most disappointing parts of this Flemish film. The characters are worth investing in up until that point, alone. Despite its premise of childhood trauma and family dysfunction set against the backdrop of a cavernous mansion, the metaphors alluding to Matthias’ spiral aren’t handled in a definitive manner by the writers. It attempts to be a cerebral narrative that connects memory and place to the onset of complete mental breakdown, but the vagueness of its storytelling ends up hampering its progress.    

Director – Steffen Geypens

Cast – Ward Kerremans, Sallie Harmsen, Johan Leysen, Jesse Mensah, Lize Feryn, Simon D'Huyvetter  

Streaming On – Netflix

Matthias, Liv and their child start living in his ancestral home after his father Pol moves to a retirement community nearby. The sprawling estate triggers his repressed memories. When he was a new born, his mother Michelle walked into the pond on the premises with him in her arms and tried to drown them both. Pol managed to save him but failed to get her out in time. Matthias settles into his childhood residence as he engages with his large group of followers on social media. When Pol staggers in unannounced one day, things take a bizarre turn. While being escorted back to his assisted living facility, they go past the factory Pol founded decades ago. He tells Matthias about a fatal accident that took place in his charge, and that all wasn’t what it seemed. At first, he makes nothing of it, but his father’s conviction has him thinking. Over the course of the next few weeks, he researches feverishly about the mishap, often consulting Pol about details that weren’t made public. Meanwhile, Liv visits town to set up connections for her home baking business. Meeting the local butcher and the convenient store owner leads to a frosty reception; they know exactly who she is. Questions about Matthias’ childhood with Pol arise, and she is left with cryptic answers. Matthias is affected detrimentally by the cries of his child as the house seems to be closing in on his fragile psychological state. He formulates far-fetched theories which he shares on Instagram, convinced that his father was framed for the unfortunate events that unfolded at the factory.

Noise is meant to be bizarre and a tad absurdist. Unfortunately, the treatment of that initial pull and intrigue goes awry. If one were to be brutally honest, it fails to move to the next level. Certain plot points are abruptly abandoned as well. The whole angle about Liv’s brother, Timme (Jesse Mensah), is a perfect case in point. The writers build the film up with great pacing up until the halfway mark only to leave you as lost as they were when the time for addressing the conflict comes to pass. Much of what’s going on in the story is clouded by the lead character’s version of reality. To compound that, it is affected by his repressed memories of growing up in a dysfunctional home. This kind of story works best on page, and that’s perhaps why the transition to screen has too many loose ends. Sound (his baby’s cries as a disruption of peace) and water (his mother’s drowning) serve as metaphors for Matthias’ overall instability. Even though these do translate in some sense, the director fails to bring it all to fruition. With the existing imbalance between conception and execution, this character-driven film trails off into the void. The quality acting doesn’t compensate for all the unanswered questions and gaps in the narrative structure. Had Noise made good on its initial promise of pacing and intrigue, it could well have held the imagination in a sustained manner. Not to be, sadly!

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