Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days on Earth, Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, review: ‘An intimate portrait’

Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days on Earth, Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, review: ‘An intimate portrait’

The main danger behind 20,000 Days On Earth, premiered on Wednesday night at London’s Somerset House as part of its Film 4 Summer Screen open air cinema showings, is that it risks appearing to be purely a vanity project for its subject, Nick Cave.

After all, the prolifically creative songwriter – who has transformed over the decades from a junkie possessed by gothic post-punk to a cultural polymath literate in melodic rock that still retains a disconcerting air of the abyss – spends much of the movie contemplating his career and the nature of being a rockstar, discussing these subjects with celebrity friends and fellow musicians, in between moments performing and writing with his band in the studio.

In fact, though he did play a creative part, Cave himself did not instigate or direct the film; it was the idea of two British filmmakers, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. So what have they created? It’s been called a pseudo-documentary, in that it records Cave’s genuine recollections and reflections on his life but in scripted scenarios – such as visiting the home of his bandmate Warren Ellis or driving Kylie Minogue through Brighton. But perhaps it’s best described as a visual autobiography, ghostwritten by Forsyth and Pollard.

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