Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Nowhere’ and its 40-song soundtrack are beautifully simple

The film is filled with European house music

It’s strikingly unusual that the 1997 film “Nowhere” features 40 songs in the soundtrack. While it initially seemed excessive and unnecessary, the soundtrack is what influenced me to watch the film in the first place. It features a vast scope of artists, like Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and 311 contributing harsh, grating melodies.

The film also features synthetic 1980s pop hits like “Two of Hearts” by Stacey Q., European house music like “Life is Sweet” by The Chemical Brothers. Shoegaze darlings like Lush, Slowdive and Cocteau Twins add meandering, often wistful songs that made the film’s duration feel far beyond 78 minutes.

Most songs are left off the official soundtrack, but Spotify sleuths compiled more comprehensive lists of “Nowhere” and it’s unique score. Many of the songs play for no more than a few seconds and often play faintly in the background of scenes.

Most of these songs come from the Shoegaze genre, named by anachronistic music journalists expecting a different kind of performance from artists who would spend hours staring at their feet to adjust effects while performing.

Some other notables include Flying Saucer Attack, Catherine Wheel and Seefeel. Director Gregg Araki was noted for his use of the genre throughout his filmography, especially in his “Teenage Apocalypse” series, which “Nowhere” bookends.

Shoegaze fits especially well in the many long scenes in “Nowhere” that frankly seem to be slow moving, like long, aimless chats in between classes at a college never shown to exist. It connects to that feeling one gets in college where nothing makes sense or feels real in the slightest. The first act of this movie heavily utilizes its score. It jumps quickly from the 311 song “Freak Out” — with an oddly calming chorus about the importance of friendship — to a melancholy Radiohead song.

“Nowhere’s” characters are projections of their inner desires and guilts and their conflicting views on the transactional nature of friendship, companionship and human interaction. They directly confront their desires, be it sexual, material or spiritual. They are open about their love, hatred, disinterest, disgust or distrust in one another.

With about half the characters having nicknames such as “Egg”, “Dark”, “What” and “Ever”, it lends itself to a sort of depersonalization. These characters know what they want but are often resigned to outcomes they do not desire. Dark remains in an open relationship, despite longing for monogamy. Egg and her brother, Ducky, both struggle with feeling and being heard. What and Ever deal with constant harassment for their self-expression.

The characters, referred to by their real names, Mel, Montgomery, Alyssa and Elvis, go to great lengths to actualize their friends’ wants.

“Nowhere” is beautiful in its simplicity. None of what happens throughout the movie is terribly pertinent, yet it is wildly entertaining. The characters are believable yet outlandish. The plot is hard to follow but easy to digest. It doesn’t overstay its welcome or try to over-establish this world and its characters, it just feels like a day in these people’s odd lives.

Jackson Walker can be reached at [email protected].

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