Young scientist Matt (Kieran O'Brien) is travelling over the landscape of the Antarctic, and the sense of perspective of the vast, white, nothingness below takes him back to a special love affair that he enjoyed over the course of one year. The woman in question was twenty-one year old Lisa (Margo Stilley) and much of their relationship was spent making love and going to see rock bands in concert. But did Matt ever really get to know Lisa? And what has she left him with aside from memories?
9 Songs was notable for being the first British mainstream movie to include scenes of real, as in unsimulated, sexual acts. Semi-improvised, it strove to attain a new level of intimacy of screen romance, but in truth there was not much mainstream about its presentation and it closer resembled an art film, which was possibly why it didn't set the box office alight when it was released. The main problem is that although we witness the couple in their most private moments, we never get a sense of what is going on in their heads, and hence we are unengaged.
The film could just as easily be seen as a concert movie than a sex film, as we get to see nine songs (as you may have guessed from the title) performed by eight bands (well, seven bands and Michael Nyman). At the opening we are treated to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club being intercut with the two lead actors in a love scene as Matt tries to sort out his memories into chronological order. The concerts are all filmed from the point of view of the audience, with the camera jostled accordingly and a rather disappointing acoustic quality that makes everything sound slightly indistinct.
So as a concert movie you could do better, probably with a DVD of your preferred band - or even better, going to a live concert yourself. And as a sex film? Well, you could do better as well, despite the amount of variations they throw in. They start off in a traditional position, then as the story draws on they move to oral sex, bondage and mild sadomasochism, as if to show either how comfortable they are with each other over the passage of time or how jaded they are with each other as their love never progresses. Whichever, the prosaic manner in which it's shot is hardly exciting.
Every so often Matt will interject with an observation about the alien quality of the Antarctic, and how human beings only set foot on the continent for the first time in the twentieth century. This doesn't so much lend a cosmic context as give pretentious trappings to a story that doesn't deserve them, and any attempt at making us understand what has brought these two people together is absent. Matt and Lisa go on holiday together, go to see bands, enjoy sex, and finally split when the American returns to her home country; there's not even a big argument - Lisa calling Matt boring is as heated as it gets. Maybe trendy couples will like it; 9 Songs is too short to be really tedious, but after you're over the novelty of real sex, the film is so flimsy as to flutter away like memories in the icy breeze.