When you think about Nick Cave, you think about his onstage persona. He’s more than larger than life. Hell, he’s almost godlike. He could be the sensitive piano man in a rundown bar one second and the angry bible-thumping preacher screaming vehemently about salvation the next. Part of Nick Cave’s legacy is the persona that he has built for himself. From The Boys Next Door to The Birthday Party to Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, everything he does seems to be part of a larger tapestry.
Nick Cave is a writer first and foremost, and perhaps it’s the reason why he seems to be crafting a mythology centered on “Nick Cave, the artist”. It’s that mythologizing that is at the heart of the new film 20,000 Days on Earth. Co-written by Cave with directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, the film centers on a fictitious day in the life of Nick Cave. Because why not?
Why would Nick Cave make a boring traditional documentary about his life?
Instead of an interview with Cave, we see him open up about his father in a fake psychiatrist’s office. Instead of talking heads, we see Cave driving his car and talking to Ray Winstone, Blixa Bargeld, and Kylie Minogue who, for the sake of the film, are figments of his imagination.
Because why not?
The film is engrossing and well-written. It also offers amazing insight into Cave’s personal life and career, which is, surprising for a “fictional documentary”. There are a lot of interesting and enlightening anecdotes and moments to be found in this film: from Blixa Bargeld talking about the reasons why he left The Bad Seeds, Cave and Kylie Minogue’s conversation about being onstage, and a heartwarming segment where Cave reads a poem he wrote for his wife after he met her for the first time.
20,000 Days on Earth is more than just a documentary about Nick Cave. It also deals with the creative process, how we perceive celebrity, and how does an artist like Nick Cave reconcile the two.
This is Nick Cave explaining what makes him tick, the only way he knows how. This is Nick Cave mythologizing himself by showing us that he’s an “everyman”, the tragic hero we’ll always root for. This is Nick Cave’s legacy in celluloid form.