One of the more interesting (to fascinating) musicians/writers to come out of the post-punk era is unquestionably Nick Cave. As the lead singer of The Boys Next Door and The Birthday Party in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, he carved out a niche of notoriety, decadence and riveting music and performance. After the 1983 split of The Birthday Party, Cave formed The Bad Seeds with ex-bandmate Mick Harvey and Einsturzende Neubaten mastermind Blixa Bargeld, amongst others. A different affair than the sonic assault and raucous live style of The Birthday Party, The Bad Seeds were a more subdued, but equally dark musical affair – a mixture of religious imagery, deep Delta blues-styles and torch songs that add up to a very original kind of art. Aside from his music career, Cave is a published author, poet and sometime actor.
It is here, with 20,000 Days On Earth, where Cave is front and center as the lead character of the movie, playing the role of Nick Cave. Directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard deliver a staged day-in-the-life on the 20,000th day of Cave’s existence. Included in the day’s events are a session in therapy (!), a lot of scenes driving with various passengers, including now-former bandmate/cohort Blixa Bargeld, singer Kylie Minogue and actor Ray Winstone. Cave waxes eloquent about performances by Jerry Lee Lewis and Nina Simone, talks at length about his childhood (which are very positive reflections) and is seen performing – both in the recording studio and on stage at the Sydney Opera.
Filmed in an almost-Wenders like manner, there is an ethereality to this movie; it seems to be mostly two people in a scene at any one time – Cave and whoever he’s speaking to; a great deal of darkened places, like a library and the recording studio. There is ample use of time-sped footage of Cave’s days with The Birthday Party and the earlier Bad Seeds and there are warm moments when he speaks of his wife and children.
I found Nick Cave to be charming and able to command the movie in an unpretentious and embracing way – he draws in the audience to feel a part of the story; to gain a greater insight into both the man and the artist. And the filmmakers knew how to present this story in an equally refreshing manner. Rather than the direct to sometimes bland manner of a documentary, this is a fine glimpse into a forward-thinking performer’s daily routines.
Well-worth the time invested.