MVD Visual: 20,000 Days on Earth (2014) - Reviewed

Images courtesy of MVD Visual

The Australian rock group Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds led by frontman vocalist and songwriter Nick Cave has seen many a number of iterations with instrumentalist Mick Harvey and guitarist Blixa Bargeld by his side.  In recent years after parting ways with Mick Harvey, Cave reformed the band with right-hand instrumentalist and keyboardist Warren Ellis and a number of other notable musicians from throughout the world.  Though a veteran performer and prolific music and songwriter, the Australian based artist crossed paths with visual artists and documentary filmmakers Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard who after directing a handful of music videos for Nick Cave mounted a feature film around a fictionalized day in the life of the artist called 20,000 Days on Earth. 

Sparking a handful of films dedicated to the artist including two by Blonde director Andrew Dominik such as One More Time with Feeling and This Much I Know to Be True, 20,000 Days on Earth finally made its disc debut a few years ago through MVD Visual.  While the disc is more or less scant on extras, the 2.35:1 scope photographed documentary shot by Erik Wilson with original music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis nevertheless represents a real highly cinematic treat for music documentary aficionados.  Following Nick Cave as he rolls out of bed, combs his hair and prepares to go out to meet with his therapist before meeting Warren Ellis for dinner and later the band to record some songs, the film is something of a relaxed if not fleeting promenade through Nick Cave’s sphere as he pontificates on the creative process.

Whether you’re a Nick Cave fan or not, the film sports a variety of unlikely cameos including Ray Winstone and Kylie Minogue playing themselves as Nick Cave drives his car through the day and night with the camera strapped to the car in a succession of extraordinary close-ups and intercutting with the car moving.  Key sequences include Nick Cave and Warren Ellis on the floor recording music or the duo at Ellis’ house having dinner before going onto a recording session.  Rendered in six-track 5.1 surround sound with Nick Cave occasionally providing voiceover narration of the thoughts running through his head during the day, the film becomes as much of a listening experience as it is a viewing one, brilliantly broadcasting the aura of the concert hall into home theaters.

While I myself admit to being something of a newcomer to the work of Nick Cave through his soundtracks and his appearance in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, this documentary is a leisurely hangout with the artist at a point of calm and contemplation right before the release of his forthcoming (at the time) album Push the Sky.  Less of a conventional biopic chronicling the top to bottom of a man’s life than a relaxed if not carefree visit with the man for a day, 20,000 Days on Earth won’t so much fill in the gaps Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fans are looking for but it will enhance one’s appreciation for the artist and what their respective outlooks on life are about.  A quiet understated little wonderment of music documentary and docudrama fiction.

--Andrew Kotwicki