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Review: 20,000 Days on Earth

– by David Morgan-Brown

20000 days posterWith this new British made “documentary” about Australian icon Nick Cave and the details of his 20,000th (give or take) day on Earth, it’s unknown how much of this film is scripted and what is genuine banter and conversation, but determining what’s real and what’s unreal in this film is not important. Rather than experiment and discover the meaning to the film during the creation of it (like with most documentaries), the filmmakers have instead figured out what to say through this documentary before they began filming, which explains the film’s performative style and its clear-cut method of delivering its own meaning – whatever that is.

Right from the impressive and harshly edited opening title sequence that smashes through Nick Cave’s (mostly public) life, there is a visceral sense of overwhelming power this documentary contains, from its fast edits and heavy sounds. Yet from here on in, the doco opts for a calmer and more assured pace, emulating the life Cave seems to lead now which is in contrast to his shock-rock early days. There’s none of the indescribable acts of rock-inspired decadence (on stage and off) as seen in the gruelling rockumentaries such as Rolling Stones’ Cocksucker Blues and GG Allin’s Hated – the worse you see here is a photo from the ‘80s of a man urinating on stage whilst Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds performed live. Unfortunately, the doco has close to fifteen minutes of its running time dedicated to showing off this band rehearsing, recording, and performing live, making these parts of the film as boring and bland as the music itself, a far cry from his earlier work or recent film soundtracks.

Despite those moments, it’s the scenes of Nick Cave in conversation with his psychologist, fellow band-member Warren Ellis, Ray Winstone, and Kylie Minogue that make me highly suggest this for any budding artists. What methods to unravelling creativity Cave has to share are interesting and unlike any other advice I’ve heard – they sound practical, inspiring, and universal. I think it goes without saying that Nick Cave fans shouldn’t miss out on this, but for those who are unfamiliar with him and his work (or those who don’t like his work) this feels like a behind-the-scenes DVD doco that’s at least been cinematically glorified, but still leaves a bit too much of a lightweight impression overall.

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