Robert Altmans “Nashville”Nashville Essay
Robert Altman’s movie Nashville is based on the political, social, and personal problems that our country has to deal with. These problems are rooted in the battle between the need to create some false image of success and the need for truth which is the struggle that exists in every character of this film (except Jeff Goldbloom). To show this Robert Altman takes us through Nashville’s Country Music using political commentary, music and realistically portrayed dialogue to tell the story.
Altman portrayed politics as sort of a parasite feeding off of the Nashville dream. He used acousmatic sound in two ways to portray these parasitic politics. The first way is the use of the Hall Walker van which was an almost a surreal narrator between scenes. This provided a point of view of what should or should not be done politically. An example of this would be when the van is talking about health care as they show Barbra Gene sitting in her hospital bed with all the flowers and what not as if to set up an outside view of the situation. The second way acousmatic sound was used in this political manner was through TV and Radio. Instead of this providing a point of view or an opinion it acted as an informer of the present situation that was undergoing at the time, for example the news casters commenting on Barbra Gene’s collapse at the airport, or when Barbra Gene is in her hospital bed listening to her replacement, Connie White, sing at the Grand Old Opry. The function of the media in this film is to inform the characters in the movie as well as the audience about the image that is intended to be upheld.
Altman also uses dialogue in a similar manor. The nature of dialogue itself is solely for creating and upholding the self image of the “Nashville Star” weather you are one or not. The conversations never get passed the surface issues, and no one ever speaks their mind unless it’s safe. But, the reality of each character is very real and deep due to the way the dialogue was set up. Most of the people were frivolous so in order to add some depth and reveal their true character Altman had to make the dialogue as realistic as possible. The dialogue seemed almost unrehearsed or not planned at all which gives it its reality. The most odious example of this is when the Hal Walker representative is arguing about the political sign with Barbra Gene’s husband at Centennial Park. He slips on his line in the heat of the argument. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but I think they chose to keep it in the movie because it seemed to be more true to reality than just a smooth flowing argument that would normally be in a movie. The little slip gave way, for the first time, a vulnerable side to the Hal Walker rep or even politics for that matter.
There is also another form of acousmatic, and it is the subtle comments of the crowd. Because there are so many appearances and performances the crowd reaction becomes very important to the context of the story from an outside critical standpoint. Putting these comments together creates one huge acousmatic truth teller.
As the story narrows and you get into the little realities of each character, the songs can be seen as a diagetic narration of inner-monologue with in the characters. Through the songs they reveal their true nature. Tom sings “I’m Easy” which reveals a sarcastic and yet realistic view of his lonely pimpish ways. The waitress Sue Lin sang, “I never get enough,” and she never could get enough self denial. Connie white, the replacement for Barbra Gene, sang “Sliding Down One more Time” because she was a constant replacement for Barbra. Music itself is sort of an inner monologue for anyone.
The music also reveals the political and social climate through the two songs that border the movie. The movie begins with Haven Hamilton’s song “The Last 200 years,” which was a historical documentation of American pride. It was the same American pride that grew too large infecting politics which in turn smothered the people causing tragic instances such as Barbra Gene’s assignation. On the other hand, the people’s side, the song “It Don’t Worry Me” was used to close the movie. It signified the blind desire of the public to continue with the same life and hide from reality and not let these events effect the conscious of Nashville or even America, and the intention of the movie was to show us our naive nature to blindly accept.