20,000 Days on Earth (2014) / Documentary-Drama
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would be R for language, drug references and some nudity
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Susie Cave, Darian Leader, Ray Winstone, Kylie Minogue, Blixa Bargeld
Director: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard
Screenplay: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard, Nick Cave
Review published October 28, 2014
Australian rock legend Nick Cave is the subject for this semi-documentary look at a musician at the twilight of his long and esteemed career, capturing his mindset as it exists in the moment and the years that led up to the man he is today. It's hard to really pin down the documentary label, because some elements and appearances are staged (that it's set on Cave's 20,000th day on Earth is but one of them), but it is, nevertheless, mythical nonfiction, even if some of the approach seems to be more about the mystical elements of song and poetry than the nuts-and-bolts of crafting an album.
The film is directed by the pair of Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, who also handle some of the writing of the narration, in which Cave, who also writes, relates his creative process and his hopes and fears at this stage of his career. He sees an analyst, in which we're privy to anecdotes of his childhood, and in his car, Nick talks to various personalities, including Ray Winston, Kylie Minogue and former crony Blixa Bargeld. We also get to see Nick and the Bad Seeds getting together to record some tracks from his most recent album, "Push the Sky Away".
It's really the direction, along with breathtaking cinematography from Erik Wilson, that takes what might be a fan video and makes it feel like a real feature film. Sleek montages from editor Jonathan Amos, intimate concert footage, thoughtful close-ups, vivid colors, and a vibrant capturing of the music from Cave and his band -- it's a treat for the eyes and ears. Watch it as big and as loud as you can.
20,000 Days on Earth, with it strong artistic sensibilities, won't be to every taste. Certainly, for Nick Cave fans, it's an absolute must see. If you love films about the process of songwriting, and good ol' rock 'n roll, it's worth a look too. It's definitely not catering to mainstream audiences, so temper any expectations that it's meant to be inclusionary of everyone. It isn't. But it does offer an insightful look at one of the pioneers of Australian rock at another pinnacle of his long and illustrious career. If it only furthers his mystique among his fans, all the better.
©2014 Vince Leo