T/F Film: 20,000 Days On Earth

As far as rock music documentaries go Maysles Gimme Shelter and Pennebaker's Don't Look Back are awesome...but 20,000 Days on Earth? It might be better. As a music doc it captures the person (the Australian singer, writer, musician, performer Nick Cave) inside the persona, a fluid portrait instead of purely a rockstar pose. As a film it is inventive in storytelling creating scenes that convey a feeling & style just as much as they convey information or understanding. As art it has touches of sweet, yet grotesque, absurdity and personal warmth that almost remind me of George Kuchar, a visual quality sometimes reminiscent of Nam June Paik, a thoughtful staging that moves like finely choreographed theater. Then there is the voiceover writing, mostly culled by the directors from Cave's notebooks and crafted by Cave directly, writing that continues to amaze, baffle, provoke, lash out, laugh, cry and love.  Cave's writing, in song and otherwise, is a mix of universal myth that softly bites with sharp teeth into reality like Wallace Stevens, toys at the edges of the absurd, is buttoned up like a porcelain Victorian novel yet lustful as a dimestore romance paperback. Cave's writing has always been the hook that has lured me long before I understood his music.

In the post film Q&A the directors, who hail mostly from an art background, spoke of how they rely on feeling when they are creating and this film definitely accomplished that as emotion and mood washed over the entire audience like the rainy Brighton shores Nick Cave resides along, like the microcosms he creates with each album, causing anyone- fan or not- to float into this alternate universe of the film & of Cave. Really beautiful art can provoke, and the best art can provoke in the name of hope and wonder. This film is a meditation on creation and destruction, inspiring, encouraging and warning about the power of ideas in the biggest and smallest of ways. 20,000 Days On Earth isn't about Nick Cave, like any good story the character here is just a fragile shell holding together something warm, alive, truthful. This film, like Nick Cave, is of another world, a scary gorgeous one that couldn't be better to get lost in for awhile so as to remember the reasons to want, need, and desire to return to the real one.



Donna K. lives in the Midwest and on the internet. Mostly she writes about her interest in the offline world.