In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for White Noise, we will explain the film’s ending.
- Jack Gladney – Adam Driver
- Babette Gladney – Greta Gerwig
- Denise Gladney – Raffey Cassidy
- Heinrich Gladney – Sam Nivola
- Steffie Gladney – May Novila
- Wilder Gladney – Henry Moore/Dean Moore
- Murray Siskind – Don Cheadle
- Mr. Gray – Lars Eidinger
- Winnie Richards – Jodie Turner-Smith
- Elliot Lasher – André Benjamin
The end of White Noise explained
The end of White Noise has three main scenes. There’s the Jack confronting Mr. Gray. There’s Jack and Babette at the nun hospital. And lastly the entire Gladney family shops together at A&P.
In the confrontation with Mr. Gray, Jack shows up as someone interested in purchasing Dylar. But his real motive is revenge for Gray extorting Babaette for intimacy. Gray is drugged out on Dylar. Eventually, Jack shoots Gray then begins to stage it as Gray committing an act of self-harm. Babette shows up. Just then, Mr. Gray comes to. He’s injured but not dead. He fires at Jack and the bullet grazes both Jack and Babette. Instead of finishing Gray off, they decide it’s best to save him. In his Dylar riddled state, Gray believes it when Jack tells them he shot himself.
At the nun hospital, the nuns are German and atheist. Jack and Babette show an intense attraction to one another. Jack’s even entertained by Mr. Gray’s ramblings. Sister Hermann Marie lectures the couple about Heaven. Belief and nonbelief. What death is and isn’t. Hermann Marie says:
Do you want to know what I believe? Or what I pretend to believe? You come in from the street, married, dragging a body by the foot, and talk about angels that live in the sky. Get out from here. Anyone who comes in here talking about angels is a numbskull. Show me an angel. Please. I want to see one. Show me a saint. Give me one hair from the body of a saint. It is our task in the world to believe in things no one else believes. If we abandon such beliefs, the human race would die out. That is why we are here. A tiny minority. If we didn’t pretend to believe these things the world would collapse! Hell is when no one believes. We pray. Lighting candles,asking statues for good health and long life. But not for long. You will lose your believers. So maybe you should try to believe in each other.
The couple then reconciles. As the morning light pours through the church window onto them.
Back home, life resumes. It’s a day like any other. Being out of milk, the whole family goes to the grocery store, part of the process of inventing hope. A large-scale dance scene plays out in the store.
Mostly everything in White Noise comes back to the theme of death and fear of death and the ways in which we self-soothe. The end of the movie is no different. When Jack goes to Mr. Gray, he’s essentially having a showdown with an embodiment of death. He’s confronting the man who slept with his wife. But a larger existential enemy. He needs the confrontation to progress. Otherwise he’d be consumed by the dread that’s eating at him. Action over thought. Deed over idea.
But the event goes south. The wounds aren’t fatal and Mr. Gray fires back. The bullet that hits Jack and Babette serves as a bit of a wakeup call. Like the Airborne Toxic Event, this is a brush with their own mortality. They came this close to dying. Which, of course, makes everything else all the sweeter. Richer. Beautiful. Even Mr. Gray. Jack’s anger towards him melts away. The divide that had grown between Jack and Babette is gone. Things can begin again.
And where better for an existential rebirth than a church? Sister Marie’s speech is derived from the book but modified. There’s a more deliberate back and forth between her and Jack but much of the lines are the same. The key part I’ll add is: Someone must appear to believe. Our lives are no less serious than if we progressed real faith, real belief. As belief shrinks from the world, people find it more necessary than ever that someone believe. Wild-eye men in caves. Nuns in black. Monks who do not speak. We are left to believe. Fools, children. Those who have abandoned belief must still believe in us. They are sure that they are right not to believe but they know belief must not fade completely. Hell is when no one believes. There must always be believers. Fools, idiots, those who hear voices, those who speak in tongues. We are your lunatics. We surrender our lives to make your nonbelief possible. You are sure that you are right but you don’t want everyone to think as you do. There is no truth without fools. We are your fools, your madwomen, rising at dawn to pray, lighting candles, asking statues for good health, long life.
The conversation actually devolves from there. Instead of being this inspiring thing that ends with the nun telling Jack and Babette to believe in each other, the nun speaks a furious German that Jack can’t translate. In fact, in the book, Babette isn’t even part of the final confrontation. The movie adds her to events and uses it to make the finale a bit more inspiring and hopeful.
But the conversation with Sister Marie feels like a natural extension of the story’s obsession with dying. What happens next? Is there nothingness? Is there something more? And Marie’s point is probably not. But people want to have hope. Even if they don’t believe it. The idea someone else does gives all of us a degree of reasonable doubt. “I don’t believe in heaven. But…maybe…” That doubt creates hope. And that hope, however slim, is part of how a lot of us come to terms with the idea of dying. It’s the real Dylar.
Recall, Dylar was the drug that hoped to rid people of their fear of death. Nothing so scientific works. But that doesn’t mean the concept isn’t attainable, in some capacity. We get over the fear through belief. Whether it’s our own or the belief of others. And through consumerism. Through the simplicity of the day to day routine. The bright distraction of corporate cheer. Which is why we get the whole A&P dance sequence. This is the white noise that drowns out death’s whispers. It’s stylized as hell. And kind of cheesy. But when the alternative is the void of annihilation, a grocery store is a wondrous place.
What are your thoughts?
Is there more to the ending that you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for White Noise? Leave your thoughts below and we’ll consider adding them.
Write a response