Simon Beaulieu’s new film White Noise (Le fond de l’air) is described as “the ultimate unboxing video.” The film, which is now available to stream for free from the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), is far unlike those unboxing videos one can see of influencers on Instagram and YouTube unwrapping their presents, vinyl records, fancy cupcakes, and cat toys. Beaulieu positions White Noise as a film that “unpacks the end of the world.” It’s a haunting essay film about humanity in the age of the Anthropocene, seen through a flurry of unnerving images that reflect a fragmented world.
Shot pre-pandemic and released in festivals in 2019, White Noise anticipated many of the aesthetics and thematic concerns that would filter through COVID-era cinema. POV shots, minimalist DIY techniques, and aesthetics of isolation create an image of Montreal in the face of global catastrophe. The film draws upon an open call for footage that adds to the fragmentary nature of the essay, yet Beaulieu uses repetition, including news footage and the appearance of a foreboding character, to create a narrative about a collective concern that is catching up to us faster than we think.
Reviewing the film at RIDM, Madeline Lines wrote that White Noise “captures the visceral feeling of climate anxiety well.” This consideration of climate change contrasts POV shots filmed via Go-Pros around different quarters of Montreal with images recorded with a thermal camera, which evoke the rising threat of climate change that exists whether one chooses to confront it or ignore it. “Black-and-white human blobs ebb and flow in a way that is both alien and familiar,” notes Lines. “The thermal camera points to our commonalities, as we all look the same under its lens. Although the climate crisis looms and we are running out of time, the technique shows us that we are still alive and can do something about it.”
Watch White Noise below from the NFB.
Presented in partnership with the NFB.