Tim Robbins wages crusade against noise in new film

ROME (Reuters) - Have you ever dreamt of smashing up that car in your neighborhood whose burglar alarm has the bad habit of going off in the middle of the night?

Tim Robbins smiles during a photocall to promote the film "Catch A Fire," in Madrid January 15, 2007. "Noise", director Henry Bean's provocative second film, casts Tim Robbins as David, an upper-class family man driven insane by New York's loud sounds. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

U.S. director Henry Bean used to do that just that, breaking into other people’s cars to disable their alarms, so he could get a good night’s sleep. He ended up in court and in jail, until he decided to stop and make a film about it.

“Noise”, Bean’s provocative second film, casts Tim Robbins as David, an upper-class family man driven insane by New York’s loud sounds -- grinding garbage trucks, horns honking, back-up beepers and worst of all, car alarms squealing at all hours.

He becomes so obsessed with noise that he turns into a black-clad vigilante, “The Rectifier”, waging his own crusade on those damn alarms shattering his quiet.

After ending in jail and nearly sinking his marriage, he decides to try to go about his fight legally, collecting signatures for a petition which he hopes will get the issue on the ballot at an upcoming council election.

The initiative is hugely popular but is blocked by the city’s slimy mayor, played by William Hurt, forcing David to resort to an extreme strategy to make his point.

“Going out to break into a car whose alarm had been going off for hours, getting arrested, going to jail, appearing before a judge, all that happened to me, I did that,” Bean, who lives in New York, told reporters after his film premiered at the Rome festival to critical acclaim.

“When I got arrested I had already been doing it a lot. I had been doing it for years. But when I spent the night in jail and it cost me several thousands dollars, I began to think I wasn’t getting anywhere by pursuing it in this way,” he said.

“I confess that a couple of times I could not control myself afterwards and I went out and did it again and didn’t get arrested those times ... In fact you’ll never find a policeman who will tell you that these things (car alarms) do any good whatsoever,” he said.


The film is Bean’s witty, often laugh-out-loud funny second installment in a trilogy exploring religious, political and artistic fanaticism.

His first film “The Believer”, about a Jewish man who becomes a neo-Nazi skinhead, won the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance festival in 2001 but was so controversial that no major U.S. distributor picked it up. Bean has also worked as a writer for films such as “Basic Instinct 2”.

Despite his own personal battle against car alarms, which according to Bean “should be totally illegal”, the director said his film was, above all, about the disconnect that he feels exists between those in power and their citizens.

“For me, noise becomes a metaphor for power. The noise that I have to listen to, that I have no control over, that invades my house, my ears, my thoughts... in a way that’s how our governments are,” he said.

“We live in a world where the governments are extremely unresponsive to what the citizens want.”