As 20,000 Days On Earth recalls 56 years of Nick Cave, it seemed fitting to view the wry luminary’s most recent film on his 57th birthday, in the town he calls home: Brighton. The film is an ode to that place, in as much as it’s an ode to Cave’s personal mythology, his memories and his wild, electric career. With perfect, brooding cinematography and crashing juxtapositions of spine-tingling live shows and the roaring sea that lines the south east coast, it begins with a raucous and aggressive blast of distortion and a haze of flickering images, as his life literally flashes before your eyes.
The film embarks on calculatedly gratuitous forays into the story of Nick Cave’s stage character, journeying through intense explications in a therapist’s office where Cave and his Doctor discuss God’s place in the gothic ballads of his catalogue, to poetic ruminating, old photographs and a lot of chat about English weather. Accompanied by his band, his wife and kids, Kylie Minogue and Ray Winstone, who all play the protagonist’s versions of themselves, Cave toys with weathering his perceptions amid Brighton’s endless rains.
One moment a crackling, luciferous caricature clad in a gold shirt clutching at his audience’s hands, the next a quiet stoic seeking the best way to preserve his legacy, this fictitious documentary, co-created by Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard, seems to be about the fluid idea of Cave rather than his lived reality. Though there are plenty of nods to the very real individuals that have influenced his complex and somewhat tongue-in-cheek idea of himself, a terrifying Nina Simone demanding, ‘champagne, cocaine and sausages!’ for one.
Watching 20,000 Days On Earth at one of Brighton’s great independent institutions, The Duke of York Cinema, amid fans who walk the same streets and visit the same haunts as the man on the screen touting the awesome power of memory and experience, lent the viewing a strangely spiritual air. It certainly wouldn’t be overly speculative to assume that this is spiritual feeling is what Cave intended to provoke. However humble and grounded the real man that wanders the streets of Brighton may be, this film was his own unapolagetic visual pamphlet for the Caveism; the church of the legendary Nick Cave.
Words: Emily Beeson | @younggoldteeth