Musician, screenwriter, actor Nick Cave wanted to find to unique way to mark his 20,000th day on earth and did so by documenting the day with this partly fictional documentary. Self-indulgent, bizarre, surreal and downright strange, the film has been described as for Nick Cave completists only but this is far from the truth.
20,000 Days on Earth is compulsory viewing for anyone interested in people attempting to find meaning in life through a creative process. A sort of meditation on art, life, symbolism and how one compliments the other. Sure some of the more offbeat elements may restrict the film’s potential viewers but that is also a testament to Cave’s character and vision, he will stop at nothing to get his idea out there no matter what. Whether he’s talking to Kylie Minogue, Ray Winstone or members from his band The Bad Seeds one gets the feeling that although this may be a man that likes the sound of his own voice, there is no denying that it’s a captivating and rather insightful voice to listening to. Sure the topics and dialogue have been scripted, yet these unconventional and non-conformist documentary ideas are what makes the film relatable on some level, as everyday life can be arguably described as so. Directors Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth do a great job of tackling the odd subject matter by using visually engaging images, rapid-fire montages and moody lighting, creating a strong hypnagogic state reminiscent of Leos Carax and Oliver Stone’s work.
In one of the many standout scenes where Cave describes in detail to his so called ‘therapist’ his first sexual encounter and how this lead to an uncomfortable conversation with his rather concerned father, one could argue Cave has told this story several times and he relives the painful experience on every occasion yet has no qualms about sharing it with the rest of us. In a time where the fan and artist relationship is becoming less and less exclusive, it’s delightful to watch a scene so structured yet personal allowing the viewer to empathise with such an perplexing character willing to bare their soul and create moments that could not be conveyed on social media or even arguably through their music.
What we get here is a temporary gateway into Cave’s dream world perfectly set up in the opening scene of the film. Cave wakes up next to his wife to the sound of his alarm, declaring to the viewer that he “ceases to be a human being” and “that’s not a bad thing just simply a feeling”. Taking into account its dreamlike neo-noir approach, this opening scene is very telling of what is to come and the overall tone of the film. It is not a traditional documentary but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is just a thing. 20,000 Days on Earth may not give us the ‘real’ Nick Cave, but it becomes clear that this was never the film’s intention. That arguably doesn’t matter and this is probably the closest anyone will get to the ‘real’ Nick Cave.
Luckily for those that want to delve deeper in Cave’s surreal psyche can do so on We Are Colony, a streaming site dedicated to offering exclusive content of films usually only found on DVDs and Blu-Rays.