20,000 Days On Earth: Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC 20,000 Days On Earth: Review

By Josh Horwood.

Directed by Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard, 97mins, on DVD now.

20,000 Days On Earth: Review20,000 Days on Earth charts musician and writer Nick Cave as he celebrates his 20,000th day alive.  In it, Cave looks back on his life and career, jams in the studio, performs two gigs (one in London and the other in Sydney) and takes a drive around his hometown Brighton with Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue.  Really.  I’m not joking.



Nick Cave has a long history with cinema.  He and his band, the Bad Seeds, have featured on the soundtrack for countless films, he and his long term writing partner, Warren Ellis, have written sublime soundtracks for films like The Road and he even wrote the John Hillcoat directed moonshiner drama, Lawless.  Everything about this documentary screams artifice.  We see Cave type furiously on his typewriter in a staged manner.  Shots in a therapist’s office are covered extensively with close ups, tracking shots and wide shots but that really doesn’t matter, this pseudo documentary / concert film / biopic is an entirely engrossing ode to creativity and the art of song writing.

Throughout the film, characters appear briefly like living memories to Cave as he drives.  Ray Winstone talks about the fear of aging and the willing suspension of disbelief all performers must have, former Bad Seed Blixer Bargeld appears to confront Cave with his past and Kylie Minogue turns up and calls Cave a “tree in a Hitchcock film.”  There is also a trip to Cave’s archive to examine his old pictures and for him to tell stories about his time in Berlin.  It’s all very bizarre stuff but it never jumps the shark.  The film remains suitably stylised and out there whilst providing enough of an insight into Cave and his working processes to stay fascinating.

At one point, Cave says on song writing: “once you’ve understood the song, it’s no longer of much interest” and I have the feeling that this film is living by that motto.  Cave, Forsyth and Pollard aren’t asking us to understand, they’re asking us to be interested.  I certainly was.  This is a mesmerising and illuminating portrait of one of the greatest and most versatile artists living today.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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