Overview: Writer and musician Nick Cave marks his 20,000th day on the planet Earth. 2014; Drafthouse Films; Rated R; 98 Minutes

Into the Archive: I love Nick Cave (The Australian David Bowie? Discuss) and I was lucky enough to see this movie a few months ago at an Istanbul film festival in a screening full of Cave fans.


Images courtesy Drafthouse Films

20,000 Days on Earth is a documentary with fictional elements, or a fiction movie with documentary elements, that tells the story of Nick Cave’s 20,000th Day of Earth.  Cave spends a part of the movie in his own archive looking at baby pictures of himself and reading old diaries. He shows a picture of himself writing a book in Berlin, living in a tiny alcove just big enough for his bed, and tells stories about that time in his life when he was young man and was wild and free. He looks at photos of his youth and tells tales about growing up in Warracknabeal near Melbourne. He talks about keeping a diary when he first moved to England, but all he wrote about was how he became obsessed with documenting the unpredictable mood of the English weather until his sons were born and the project was abandoned. Somewhere between the text and the subtext is a movie about aging and legacies.

Questions and Answers: Early on, Cave visits a psychiatrist who asks him questions about his youth, his first sexual experiences, his past as a heroin addict, his hopes, his fears. We can never know how honest Cave is being but it feels real when he talks about his sadness at his father’s death (when Cave was 19) and his fear of losing his memory, all while fidgeting under the eyes of the shrink and the camera. Other interviewers in the movie appear like ghosts in Cave’s car as he travels around his hometown in Brighton, England. Ray Winston (star of Cave-written The Proposition and the music video for the Bad Seeds’ On Jubilee Street) talks about getting old while ex-Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld appears to make amends with Cave after leaving the Bad Seeds with just an email as an explanation. The final ghost, the only one to sit in the back seat, is Kylie Minogue, Cave’s collaborator on his only top 20 UK hit, Where the Wild Roses Grow. They talk about fame and Michael Hutchence and, in an especially open moment, Cave asks her what she is afraid of and she replies, ‘I worry about being forgotten and lonely.’

How it’s All Made: A big theme of the movie is the nature of creativity and vast portions of the movie are dedicated to the creation of the newest Bad Seeds album, Push the Sky Away. Cave hunches over a typewriter or sits at a piano. The scenes in the studio are excellent as we see Warren Ellis of the Bad Seeds conducting a children’s orchestra in French or Cave fine tuning a song word by word. For creative minds, it is like catnip to see these great minds work together and slowly create something amazing.

Overall: 20,000 Days on Earth is a beautifully shot, expertly edited movie with a fantastic soundtrack and an ending performance worthy in itself of the home purchase and endless reviewings.

Grade: A-