Nick Cave is a man who wears many hats: singer, musician, writer, screenwriter, actor and composer. But Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard's latest film, 20,000 Days on Earth , tells about not only the creative genius behind all of them, but also the father, husband and friend that isn't so commonly known to fans.
That isn't to say that 20,000 Days is your run-of-the-mill documentary. In a format befitting the ex-Bad Seeds front man, the film explores the world of Cave and the influences–from his early upbringing to the everyday people in his life–that inspire his imagination. But beyond that, the film examines the spiritual themes such as mortality, and how we spend our time on Earth.
The idea for the film sprung from Cave's invitation to Forsyth and Pollard to film Cave in the studio as he worked on his album Push The Sky Away. Forsyth and Pollard had worked with Cave before, so to them, the invitation from the usually introverted Cave seemed like a great opportunity to turn the project on its head and open the film up to document Cave's creative process. Cave agreed, and granted Forsyth and Pollard access to his personal notebooks, where the filmmakers gleamed an image of Cave's world of ideas.
"We found disparate phrases which instantly sparked ideas that excited us," says Pollard. "This included a calculation to work out how many days he had been alive on the day they started recording the album, next to the unusually coined phrase '20,000 days on Earth.' We began to work with the idea of what makes us who we are and what we do with our time on Earth."
Read more: Nick Cave Invites Us In In 20,000 Days On Earth
From there, Cave and the filmmakers began collaborating on ideas, supplanted by Cave writing about select topics Forsythe and Pollard handpicked from his journals. Eventually, "20,000 Days on Earth" became the title of the film. Pollard and Forsyth then crafted a framework for the film that revolved around Cave's written ideas and thoughts, which would be used in voiceover throughout the film.
The style of 20,000 Days on Earth fuses together documentary and fiction, consciously skirting away from the straight cinema-vérité gaze of filmmaking. But even throughout, moments with Cave's family and real life friends and musical collaborators contribute to its realism, and Cave's own personal direct address to the audience brings the film its intimacy.
"With Nick, we quickly arrived at this shared understanding that what we didn't like about a lot of contemporary music documentaries was their presumed unobtrusive, observational style. [As if] seeing the 'real' Nick Cave would somehow reveal something more about Nick Cave." Forsyth explains. "Watching a rock star washing the dishes or taking the kids to school might be interesting to some on a vacuous star-spotting level, but it doesn't intellectually engage you."
Cave's family members–along with cameos from Blixa Bargeld, Kylie Minogue, Warren Ellis, Ray Winstone–and sessions with a psychoanalyst appear in this offbeat and visually stunning film. Watch the trailer below, and be sure to check out the film at your friendly local arthouse, The Frida.
20,000 Days on Earth opens Friday at The Frida Cinema, 305 E 4th St., Santa Ana. For more information, visit thefridacinema.org