After watching Autoluminescent (the documentary about former Birthday Party member Rowland S. Howard) I thought it was odd that there hadn’t been any about Nick Cave and hoped I wouldn’t have to wait for him to die to see one.
20,000 Days on Earth is based around a fictional day in the life of Nick Cave. At the start there’s some montage clips presented in fast-forward of Nick’s milestones from birth to The Birthday Party and Bad Seeds, right up to present day. 20,000 Days on Earth is not of the past. Nick discusses events and people from the past but it is not a retrospective documentary about his career. It also focuses a lot on the recording of Push the Sky Away, so those anticipating any coverage/stories about The Birthday Party/Bad Seeds won’t find it here.
Cave also provides voice-over narration that has a literary quality to it, although some of it comes off a tad ostentatious (more so on first viewing), it totally fits Cave’s style and so does the film itself in that it breaks a lot of conventions. In between scenes of Cave going about his (fictionalised) day we see rehearsals, interviews with psychoanalyst Darian Leader, and footage of Cave driving around with Blixa Bargeld, Kylie Minogue and Ray Winstone. I enjoyed the scenes in the car and Warren Ellis the most as the conversations felt really organic and not as boring as the usual talking heads of people answering questions/fawning over the subject of the film/documentary.
Cave has said that 20,000 Days on Earth is fictional but within it there are truths. It’s definitely more of an art film rather than your typical “rock n‘roll” documentary. It is very stylized and staged and Cave is presented in a very flattering matter (lighting, narration etc) but that’s not to say there’s no meat to the film or that it lacks an intimacy. It’s elegantly shot and despite it being staged, is very affecting and you gain a lot of insight into the myth of the man. I really enjoyed the filmic/meditative take on exploring an artist but having said that I’d still love to see a traditional documentary about The Birthday Party and Bad Seeds. If you’re expecting a more in-depth warts-and-all type of documentary this will disappoint.
It’s a film that has a little bit of something for everyone and can be enjoyed by those who don’t even know the man. Not so much a film about a man and his career but the art of storytelling and the artistic process.
An absolute must own for fans of the man.
The Making Of – Runs for 15 minutes and includes interviews with Nick Cave, the directors, producer, director of photography and has some behind-the-scenes footage mostly of the car scenes. Watching the Making Of kinda ruined it a little for me in that it’s not Warren Ellis’ house (he actually lives in France) and someone else cooked the eel. The archive is also fictional. I didn’t think they would have taken it that far but even though a lot of it is set up, the footage that is captured and the discussions are 100% authentic.
The Archives – About 6 minutes of extended/different footage of Nick talking with the archivists about photos and artefacts, a particularly funny anecdote is of an image of a bronze statue Nick wanted to give to his home town – big pineapple, big lobster, big Nick Cave.
Tour Rehearsals – about 10 minutes long, they perform Your Funeral My Trial and Stranger than Kindness.
Interviews –About 9 minutes of interviews that didn’t make it into the film or are extended.
Studio Backing Vocals – About three minutes of clips of Nick, Warrren and co doing backup vocals and Warren playing violin.
Ray Winstone Fish and Chips – a 2 minute clip of Nick and Ray arguing over which country does better fish and chips.
Demo Sessions: 3 minute clip of See that Girl.
Live at Koko Duet with Kylie – Nick and Kylie perform fan favourite “Where the Wild Roses Grow”.
To round out the disc there’s a theatrical trailer and Madman Propaganda.