Documentary - 20000 Days on Earth

Nick Cave

A film about Nick Cave wouldn't just be a normal documentary now, would it? Steve Taylor-Bryant finds out as he watches 20000 Days on Earth...

Nick Cave is an acquired taste but one that like a great drug is very hard to pull yourself away from. As a younger man I had to actively seek out different music as only one radio station on a military camp meant either Top 40 or The Beatles so Record Collector and NME were vital as a guide to the cassette tapes I should be asking the NAAFFI to order in, and it was within these pages that the Australian songsmith jumped out at me. Skip forward to my beckoning middle age and whilst many artists have fallen by the wayside I am still somewhat in love with Mr Cave, his voice, his lyrics, his song structure, and his unconventional style. It's this unconventional way that first drew me towards 20,000 Days on Earth because I knew this wouldn't be a normal music documentary, it was Nick Cave! How could it be?

Directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard have collaborated with Cave before on some videos by The Bad Seeds and the mutual respect between Cave, who can be very Diva-like, and the directing team is evident in the how smoothly the film seems to run and in how open they manage to make Cave. The film isn't really a history of Cave, although his past is covered, it's more of a project, setting Cave a question and seeking the answer. What performance means to me now? That is the crux of the film and Cave, who knows he is not getting any younger, embarks on a personal journey through memory and music to try and answer. When it comes to interviewing past band members or collaborators the duty doesn't fall to the filmmakers but to Cave himself. Driving around town talking to Kylie Minogue, drinking coffee with Blixa Bargeld, a therapist chair to discuss his father, and old photographs to reminisce with Warren Ellis are all highly watchable and in every conversation no matter how brief you gain a little more understanding of the mercurial singer.

The music of The Bad Seeds is the perfect soundtrack for exploring the head space of someone like Nick Cave and both classic and, at the time of filming, new songs are welcomed by subject and viewer alike. Cave sits in that category of musical genius that's not quite understood, and whilst I got a better understanding of Cave the man and his process I don't think the film even scratched the surface of a very complicated man, this I do believe was by design though, that mystique that surrounds Cave is part of the appeal when you are a fan. Of all music documentaries I've watched this may not be the best technically but is up there as one of the most enjoyable.

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