As the season shifted in London from Indian summer into an undeniably autumn mood with a brisk snap in the air and relentless showers I took myself to the Arthouse in Crouch End to watch the intriguing ‘20,000 Days on Earth’ by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. A ‘docudrama’ about the musician/poet Nick Cave.
Not since Lars von Triers ‘Dogville’ has a cinema experience left me physically stunned. I was moved and entranced. They say you know a good film when the passage of time goes unnoticed – that’s exactly what happened.
The opening sequence is a stunning barrage of images chronicling his first 19,999 days. Reminding the viewer of his extensive career and notorious drug use. The film itself takes the form of a ‘day in the life’. Running through the daily experience of Nick Cave the ‘rock star’ – his on stage persona that’s become inextricably linked to him as a person.
His own voice providing the commentary adds a surreal yet comfortable quality. In this day of reality television it seems to provide an ‘authentic’ stamp on the production as if it is a factual documentary. The screen play is not overly-complicated. He wakes up, he writes, he visits a therapist, he pops in to see one of his co-writing Bad Seeds Warren Ellis for lunch and visits the archives to go through some material. All this is interspersed with surreal conversations in his car as he drives with Ray Winstone, who appears in the music video to ‘Jubilee Street’, Blixa Blargeld, a former Bad Seed and Kylie Minogue whom he famously collaborated with on ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’.
All these moments we bear witness to, the humour, the memories and the conversations are interspersed with intimate access to the creative process. We see this starting with his book of lyric ideas, work-shopping a song with Warren Ellis and the rest of the Bad Seeds, recording and then performing. The end result, which is so beautifully shot and edited, is an emotionally intense experience, but in no way over bearing.
Cave’s performance feels searingly honest, and painfully human. He discusses at one point while driving his desire to be ‘someone else’ while growing up, which is what we as fans see of him – this rock god stage persona. It is a reminder that celebrity is not a tangible thing, and how he is so good at it that most of us can’t tell the difference between him and the character. Dr Frankenstein has become his creature.
Ending the film with a performance of ‘Jubilee Street’ at the Sydney Opera House, I was surprised to find as the strings crescendo to his vocals of ‘look at me now, I’m transforming’ my eyes moistening. A couple of hard swallows were necessary to stem the tears. As I left the cinema in a slightly dazed state another attendee behind me made a comment about how amazing the film was, I turned around and could only reiterate that ‘that was incredible’.
This is a beautiful piece of art, lovingly crafted and released to us the public as a special gift. I will be adding it to my collection as soon as it’s available. I cannot recommend it enough and will be going on about it for a while to come. Apologies friends and family in advance…