Katie Mccullough Talks and Writes

Words will get written here and some videoblogs will appear. You don't have to look but it would be nice if you did.

“Only unhappy people are bad dancers…” June 29, 2010

I had a craving to re-watch “9 Songs” and I followed through with it. It’s a love/hate film with me obviously being a part of the former. For me it sums up the decaying relationship, the heartache, the pain and the tedium with all the good bits inbetween of how love manifests itself. Or lust. A heady combination of the two. And let’s be honest here, sex is part of love.



(Personally I think this trailer is a bit of a hash job, the audio is horribly clipped and heavily cut in places, but you get the idea.)

My other passion is music and, after spending an eternity on my dissertation which was about the use of music as a form of narrative in the moving image, I only wish this had come out earlier. For me it encapsulates the passion and rhythm of sex and music and merges the two. Visceral, raw and honest and painfully frank the fact that they’re having real sex in front of you on a screen is not the point. The point is that you’re parry to their intimacy and it’s not porn it’s a love story. If you get off whilst watching this film you’re wanking to someone’s misery. But hey, whatever floats your boat.


There is something that film cannot capture or recreate when it comes to simulating sex on screen. And it’s this (and I too shall be brutally frank). It’s the first groan a woman makes as a man enters her. This noise that erupts slowly from the back of her throat, the signal of things to come. It completely takes over the body and ripples through her limbs, her body parting the way and embracing her lover. Physically and emotionally we’re reduced to sounds, touch – it’s a sensory overload when it comes to making love/fucking/whatever you wish to call it. No amount of fakery can match that. A sound that is heightened by the silence that follows it. A sound that I can imagine makes a man’s cock twitch with delight and drench him with a euphoria so much so that his ears swallow themselves. It’s a sign of pleasure and in that single aural sensation we as the singer of such a note or the inducer can derive the craziest, wildest awareness of our position in a clinch.


Which is why “9 Songs” for me is a rare honest portrayal of a relationship and its impact emotionally and physically. Told through the eyes of the male it contrasts the ice landscape of the Antarctic of his profession with that of the scolding furious passion of his home-life. The undulating growth of this relationship over a year is punctuated with the live music they go and see and really hones in to the hedonistic lifestyle the couple indulge in. Told in a vignette style we see the fragmented memories of what’s left to remember of this year long relationship. Intense and unsettling at times we see the pair set out on a path of discovery and push boundaries sexually and the mundane small moments that once we’re in a relationship we can crave and cling to, but to the outsider are meaningless.


“Exploring the Antarctic is like exploring space. You enter a void, thousands of miles, with no people, no animals, no plants. You’re isolated in a vast, empty continent. Claustrophobia and agoraphobia in the same place, like two people in a bed”.


For me the repetition of small private jokes really are a measure of where the relationship is or is not going (“You look ugly” “I’m trying to look ugly”). They delved into this in “500 Days Of Summer” (the tap sequence in IKEA). And I think it’s an all too familiar wound that I recall from my own experiences – where you know in that isolated incident if a joke lovingly formulated between two lovers, who are the only two people to understand, falls flat or fails to lift you feel shunned and instantly out of place.


I think the reason why I appreciate and hold a special place for “9 Songs” is because it strikes too familiar with me in all of its painful glory. That’s not to say my last relationship panned out the same or we had the same problems, but it’s the solemn promise that we offer to another human being that more than often goes tits up. Which is why I always defend this film when it crops up in conversation. The sex is much apart of the narrative as the flitters of dialogue between the couple and the live music. The gradual decline of their relationship is mirrored in their sex life and the intensity of the music reflects their differences.


Personally I think the biggest lie you could tell is that of a relationship. Sombre as that sounds it takes a lot to offer yourself up to someone as you are and for someone to accept it as a given. I think this is why I end up writing a lot about relationships and the effects of them. I had a big ol’ conversation today about how insulting it can be for people to assume that all writers projects are direct formulations of their experiences. Don’t get me wrong I do put a lot of myself into my writing but they’re moments, sayings, trivial meanings, observations – they are not my life stories out for all to see and digest. And even if they were I would never highlight that fact unless I wanted to. The point is writers have an imagination and they have the creative ability to flex it. After writing “The White Room” I had people coming up to me saying I had nailed the complexities of a strained marriage and motherhood as well as post-natal depression. This pleased me so because:


a) I am not married and have never been.
b) I am not a mother so subsequently…
c) I have not experienced post-natal depression.


It goes to show the ultimate ability of a writer is to create lives that people can relate to. I have a perfectly wonderful supportive family, but there’s nothing I like better than writing a family that is the complete opposite. Because it’s a challenge and they exist. I take pride in the fact that I can still hark back to what a relationship is like even though it’s been a while since I’ve had one. I realise I’ve been quite open about a lot of stuff in this post but hey, it all happens and trust me I’m honest which is how I am. Which means I should maybe tie this back to why I like, no love, “9 Songs”… It’s because it forces me to look back to memories I have myself which have formed who I am today. Not 100% depressing I can assure you.


Maybe I should have watched Mamma Mia*.









(*I will never watch Mamma Mia.)