Overview: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds debut their new album under a cloud of grief. Picturehouse Entertainment; 2016; Not Rated; 112 miuntes.
Mourning: In July 2015, Arthur Cave, son of Nick and Susie Cave, fell from a cliff at Ovingdean and died from his injuries. He was 15. This tragedy occurred halfway through the recording of the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 16th album, Skeleton Tree. However, this isn’t one of those documentaries that begins as one thing then becomes another like The Queen of Versailles or Weiner. It is not half the recording of the album and half the aftermath of Arthur’s death. By Cave’s own admission, One More Time with Feeling was made to stop people asking him and his family how they were doing. To stop the press trying to get interviews. To let the world know the state of affairs with the Caves.
20,000 Times with Feeling: One More Time with Feeling was filmed in stark black and white, at times serving as a weird companion piece to 2014’s 20,000 Days on Earth. 20,000 Days on Earth was very much a fictionalised documentary that purported to show a day in the life of Cave but in reality was a chronicle of his life and career using apparitions of Kylie Minogue and Blixa Bargeld, therapy sessions, and visits to Cave’s personal archive. Cave swaggered around Brighton and dominated the stage at live performances, every inch a rock star.
One More Time with Feeling is not that. Feeling seems to exist in the moments before the director, Andrew Dominik, says action and after he says cut. Everyone seems unprepared and nervous, and the camera constantly loses focus like its unable to document something we all hope to never experience. The polish and artifice of 20,000 Days is gone, replaced with stark close ups and lingering silences.
Susie and Warren: One More Time with Feeling also takes people from 20,000 Days who appeared briefly or who were simply described and shines the spotlight on them. Susie Cave who is mentioned a lot in 20,000 Days is a focal point of this documentary as she discusses life after losing her child and how her remedy was to throw herself into her work. A heart breaking scene has her showing a picture Arthur drew as a child that is actually of the place he died in, and getting annoyed that they framed the picture in black, even though they framed it years before. Cave sits nearby, lost, uncomfortably unable to reach her as she struggles to compose herself long enough to speak.
Another is Warren Ellis, Cave’s partner in the Bad Seeds. Ellis appears a few times in 20,000 Days and is presented as a Merlin character who lives on the coast and serves Cave a lunch of eels and talks about seeing Nina Simone and Jerry Lee Lewis in concert. In One More Time with Feeling he is the first voice we hear, telling the interviewer how uncomfortable he is talking about all this behind Cave’s back. Throughout the movie we see Ellis lingering around in the background, holding Cave up, keeping him together, being there if his friend needs him.
Ghost: Shakespeare wrote that grief fills the room of the absent child and that is the case here. If I’m recalling correctly, Arthur never actually appears in the documentary. We see his face on his twin brother, Earl, and at the end we hear his voice, but we’re never shown a photo or a home movie of Arthur. It doesn’t matter though because the boy is all over One More Time with Feeling. In the crisp monochrome photography he is the black that engulfs the light. He is the stumbling of Cave’s words as the great wordsmith and entertainer struggles to find the right combination of thoughts and sentences to describe the indescribable.
Overall: One More Time with Feeling is a triumph. It is not gratuitous or torturous. No tears are shed on screen. It is a simple, honest portrayal of a family’s grief and the work they do to try and move forward. It is about creativity in the face of destruction, and the inescapability of time and loss.
Featured Image: Picturehouse Entertainment