Singer-song writer–composer-author Nick Cave’s 20,000th day on earth is the premise upon which visual artists Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard create their film, one which combines drama and reality to create a fictitious 24 hours. It’s a blurring of truth and fiction.
The film is titled 20,000 Days on Earth and has been a part of this years New Zealand Film Festival. It reached Hamilton few weeks back, so despite a clash with the second Bledisloe rugby test between the New Zealand and Australia. I took myself off to see it. I was always going to preference Cave over the All Blacks.
Cave is a tall, dapperly dressed, intelligent 56-year old UK-based Australian. I’ve followed his career since 1981. I’m a fan. All of his albums are very well played, Murder Ballads being the only exception. I’m seldom in the mood to do it justice!
There are few new revelations. It has none of the fly-on-the-wall immediacy that you find in some documentaries. In places it feels contrived and a little too self-indulgent (cf. the scripted session with his fictionalised psychoanalyst). There are lots of monologues and voice-overs with Cave acting as narrator. There’s real humour, and in the end I enjoyed it a lot. I was struck by Cave’s depth of thought and reflection. I valued his insights into the creative process. His conversation with Bad Seed Warren Ellis over lunch – the central topic of discussion being singer Nina Simone – was both hilarious and insightful. Live musical performances were sparse, confined largely to two or three songs that will eventually make it onto Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' 15th studio album, Push the Sky Away (released February 2013).
It didn’t occur to me at the time, but later on I thought of David Cronenberg’s film Cosmopolis (2012) as I reflected on the scenes where actor Ray Winstone, ex-Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld, and singer Kylie Minogue materialise in Cave’s XJ Jaguar as he’s driving. In Cronenberg’s film a variety of people get into Robert Pattinson’s limo at various times as he’s driven around city streets. In my view, however, the presence of Winstone, Bargeld and Minogue adds little to the overall film, and I suspect that much of these conversations ended up on the editor’s floor. Perhaps that’s why, while interesting, they felt a little out of place?
There were lots of words. Enough words and interesting themes that will mean I’ll end up seeing the film a few more times – assuming it comes out on DVD. In fact I’ll be seeing it again in December at a screening with Nick in attendance. The DVD is available for pre-order on Amazon.uk.
Despite some concerns I absolutely loved the experience of watching the film. My only regret? I think it skimmed the surface. I kept looking at Cave, but in the end I’m not sure I ‘know’ him any better; or gained any more insight into his psyche, into who he is behind the persona, beneath the legend that is Nick Cave.
On the 28th August Radio New Zealand National features a review of 20, 000 Days on Earth (plus reviews of Lucy and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Jumped Out the Window and Disappeared. You’ll find the podcast here.