20,000 Days On Earth is a combination of biographic and poetic fiction and plunges the viewer into the life and universe of Nick Cave. Directed by London-based artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, documentary-style elements expose Cave’s curious creative process, but it’s the film’s moments of mystifying surrealism that add a new layer to this narrative. Rather than simply fuelling Cave’s self-made mythology, 20,000 Days is a riveting and cerebral documentary about artistic intensity.
The film uses Cave’s 20,000th day alive as a loose, fictional narrative structure; made up of what are essentially snapshots of his music, musings and beliefs. Snippets of therapy sessions reveal childhood memories and Cave’s innermost convictions. There are conversations with, and cameos by, some of Cave’s closest collaborators including Kylie Minogue.
As Cave drives along the winding roads of Brighton, one by one the characters of his past appear in the passenger seat, speaking nostalgically with him as the rain pours down outside; creating a close, intense space inside the car. The film also dips into the extensive archive of Cave’s prolific art and paraphernalia. Other stunning sequences capture the composition, recording and performance of Cave’s 2013 album Push The Sky Away.
20,000 Days forgoes spontaneous or handheld documentary style, instead opting for cinematography that is meticulously and beautifully composed. Combined with surreal and glitchy editing, this fragmented narrative echoes the chaotic nature of Cave’s creative process. During a particularly candid moment, Cave discuses how his song writing has always been concerned with the recreation of a memory or a person.
At times the film slips into self-indulgence, portraying Cave as a savior-like figure grasping at reaching fans in the audience as they desperately grope back at him on stage, though moments of self-doubt and anxiety provide balance.
Nick Cave’s existence is completely consumed by writing, recording and collecting. 20,000 Days presents the eccentric life of a true artist. Cave expresses his fear of becoming artistically idle, encouraging viewers to act upon their own ideas – big and small. Although not the first film to do this, it’s powerfully emphasised here through a compelling visual style.
20,000 Days On Earth is now screening in selected cinemas.