Shaped around a day in the life of the 56-year-old Australian rock poet Nick Cave, this film it’s not just a screen biography but it’s a reflection on an artist’s creative spirit, examining “what makes us who we are”.
In their debut, directors Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard walk us through a typical day in Cave’s life, intimately probing the artistic process of one of the most influential rock icons of the last three decades.
Opening with a fast-motion montage of Cave’s life snapshots, a counter goes towards the number 20,000 and cuts on Nicke Cave’s bedroom in Brighton and this is the point where his “20,000th day” begins.
Voices from the past, who have affected his life appear during the hours as well as memories, places, episodes, books.
A conventional documentary approach to his life would have been antiseptic. Cave’s mythology and creativity are transposed on 20,000 Days on Earth with their intensity and facets. He’s interviewed by a shrink and not by a journalist, the friends he meets in his Jaguar (like Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue) while driving through his adopted hometown of Brighton, appear and disappear like ghosts. In a factitious way, they all make him bring to present memories of distant and near past, plumbed by the registration of his last album “Push the sky away”.
The multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis plays a key role in the film. He appears in the recording studio, he prepares a lunch for his mate Nick Cave, they talk together in a spontaneous way. These are the less artificial moments of the documentary, more natural, simple, intimate.
Throughout the film, fiction and reality constantly flow into each other mirroring Cave’s personality.
Early years, memories and mementos continue to nourish his artistic work. They all come back to reality into new forms celebrating the transformative power of the creative spirit.
When art is able to shape the essence of details it becomes one of the most powerful instruments of empathy. When this happens the empathy will be eternal.
Nick Cave’s lyrics and performances on stage traverse this level of empathy. A medley between theatre and ballads tells about memories, people, places, reintepreting the essence of life. The same mélange takes form in 20,000 Days on Earth, making it an eternal story.