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It seems strange to have such an affection for a film that is so flawed and fails in so many areas. Either way, I really really enjoyed Nine Songs, a relationship drama told strictly through sex. First, we'll list the failures. The acting of our female lead is a bit suspect and makes her, in the end, unlikable. The photography, although intimate and immediate, suffers from it's DV quality and makes you wonder how beautiful this film could have been shot with the eye of perhaps... Lars Von Trier's dogma lense. Most importantly, the movie relies on two ingredients that in the end prove a bit useless. We are reliving the story in memory via the male lead as he travels through Antarctica. Although it is an interesting metaphor and a captivating landscape, it seems almost entirely unnecessary. We hear him say "you can be clostraphobic and agoraphobic all at the same time, much like the bedroom." Secondly, and most important, the live music is inconsequential, although good. The actual image quality is low, the songs play for too long, the lyrics apply to the narrative not at all, and the bands all flirt with one style (Michael Nyman being the exception). I must say, there is an outstanding version of "Jacqueline" by Franz Ferdinand.
Now let me tell you where the film succeeds. We experience two young, naive, selfish personalities infatuated with one another, and the idea of one another. This is expressed in the most immediate and intimate fashion: SEX. We see two people in the prime of a relationship, in which the most sex is had, and as much as possible, however possible, symbolizing favors, trust, forgiveness, revenge, and all the other facets of a relationship. These scenes also succeed because of their length, the total lack of music, and the director's willingness to let them exist without explanation. Although these two characters are not even particularly likable or explained to us, we end up feeling as if we've shared something very deep with them, solely based on the extent to which we are asked to hang with them throughout the long and graphic and no holds barred sex scenes.
It may seem sick, but by the end, as a graphic fellatio scene ends with actual ejaculation, you have become so acclimatized to this topic, and it being our main source of communication, that there is an almost unspoken dialogue between all parties. Instead of feeling offended, we feel love for the privacy of the moment, for the trust and sharing that happens there. Instead of feeling aroused, we feel compelled by the motives, interested in the roles played and mindful of the moment shared.
By asking that you step into a theater, with total strangers, and watch many graphic sexual encounters, many unexplained and without the usual Hollywood ramp-up, you have signed over a certain amount of control and comfort as an audience-member, which in the end, offers a truly unique experience of the "love story". When all is said and done, "Nine Songs" evoked a truly unique and loving response from me, in spite of the fact that as a film, it fails in many areas. I would not say that many films should be made like this, but I would say that it is flirting with a new form of love story that is raw, beautiful and in the end, no matter how many times it fails, honest by the sheer default of it's topic.