There’s nobody quite like Nick Cave.
Since the age of fourteen in The Birthday Party, the Australian has had a genuine presence in the music world. Over this long and varied career, Cave has also scored films, wrote screenplays and now starred in his own documentary. Having said that, it feels wrong to classify 20,000 Days on Earth as a documentary as it defies the principles of conventional ‘rockumentaries’ that have gone before it. Films about bands often serve as an elaborate exercise in PR but that was never really going to be the case with Cave: a man who has never really showed an interest in convention.
Supposedly taking place over the course of his 20,000th day on Earth, we see Cave in conversation with friends including Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue, as well as visiting his personal archive. Set against the backdrop of Brighton, Cave’s adopted hometown, the stunning cinematography creates a dream-like feeling throughout. The lines between fantasy and reality are blurred as Cave reflects on his unique life so far with discussion encompassing public and private life and the concepts of myth and memory.
These reflections, combined with small and endearing moments of humour when Cave eats pizza and watches Scarface with his teenage sons and tries to avoid eating bandmate Warren Ellis’s eel-based cuisine, remind the audience of the very humanity that lurks at the core of Cave’s artistic talent.
Fans of the man himself will not be disappointed by this brief but insightful glimpse into his world and nor will those who have an interest in the creative process or just enjoy good cinema. It’s a poetic and engrossing character study as much as it is a film about music. All told, 20,000 Days on Earth is a rare treat. Glimpses into music, performance and cinema are seamlessly infused to create a documentary quite unlike anything else; something that could only be Nick Cave.