When you go to film school, you’re taught many things. These lessons span through all the different parts of film. One being the 180 degree rule, telling you where you should and shouldn’t put the camera when filming dialogue scenes. Another would be the importance of Mise-en-scène, everything you put on screen matters. But one lesson that Nashville certainly didn’t listen to was writing characters and more specifically how many you should have in your film.
According to the Letterboxd entry of Nashville, the films boasts a total of twenty four characters all with their own stories and backgrounds. When you watch the film, it honestly feels like a lot more. Characters come and go very quickly within scenes and sometimes turn up when you least expect them to. Often making you remind yourself who they were and who they knew.
The reason they teach you to minimise characters in film school is to increase your focus, the audience is more likely to be emotionally invested in one well developed main character rather than five less developed side characters.
Nashville however manages to make you care just a little bit about every single person that shows up in the famous Tennessee city. Of course, the rule of focus is proven here as none of the characters are massively well developed but you get to know each and every one of their little traits and some of their desires. Not every character is really meant to be well known though to be fair. In an early and much smaller role for the now rather famous Jeff Goldblum, we see a travelling tricycle riding nomad who’s an expert in funny little magic tricks that add to the mystery of the character. He comes and goes throughout many scenes without saying a word but he’s an unforgettable presence. This could be because of the actor’s later found stardom to be fair, but all actors start somewhere and this role definitely contributed to his bigger roles in films like The Fly and of course Jurassic Park.
Of course you can’t talk about Nashville without talking about the unforgettable music. Country music is a genre that is somewhat of an acquired taste; where some call it “three chords and the truth” while others would just have it down as just as boring as Jazz. If you fall into the latter, then Nashville may not be for you. Several scenes are dedicated to listening to the soothing vocals of many of the talents that reside in the cast of this Oscar winning film. You could call it a musical in this respect, but it’s certainly not structured like Hamilton or The Greatest Showman.
Nashville is a film that encapsulates the city it’s named after and creates a living, breathing world that you feel welcomed into throughout the 150 minutes runtime. Much like the music that fills the film’s audio the story has its deafening highs and its tragic lows. It’s known as a classic for a reason and should be viewed by any with a love of country and western.
Nashville has been restored to 4K and is being shown at the BFI Southbank as part of their Robert Altman season