Any docu-fan, any filmmaker or anyone who’s been enjoying what digital cinema has to offer owes themselves a viewing of 20 000 Days on Earth.
Nick Cave contacted writer/directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard personally during the preliminary stages of his latest album Push The Sky Away, and in doing so he gave them the inspiration for their first feature film. 20 000 Days on Earth is a long look into the artist Nick Cave and the zeitgeist surrounding him.
Of course one’s enjoyment of this film is largely dependant on your opinion of Cave – not that you need to go in with thirty years of The Bad Seeds under your arms – but you’ll be asked to fall in love with his philosophy and sound. Clearly, Forsyth and Pollard have, showing stunning attention to detail, they pepper the film with motifs. (A personal favourite is Cave’s admitted passion for juxtaposition in his music and, as we’re shown later, in his décor). Not just narrative motifs but a wonderful use of achieved imagery that are used to create a sharp ending, everyone will love.
Pollard and Forsyth repeated that they wanted the audience to be left ‘with a certain feeling’, of new energy and inspiration. Honestly this feels slightly manufactured as Cave’s words are thrown against stock footage of Brighton and overdoses of his music. In the early stages I wonder if the directors struggled with their embarrassment of riches because they seem to pull out trite techniques like messing with the foreground and focus or using lots of slow-mo. Not that ‘less is more’ would be a fair rebut – the buckets of interviews, achieve footage and even a psychoanalyst is an unending feast for the eyes and mind. Soon one begins to realise the true access they’ve been given into the life of Nick Cave.
It’s this trust between different facets of art that have made some of the most exciting recent documentaries – Director of Photography Erik Wilson seems to draw a little something from Jessica Oreck’s Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo as sound and picture become more and more intertwined throughout the film. Real audio/visual sensitivity is shown after initial jitters – I moaned about clichés yet have to admit to loving the pan around Cave while he’s going through slides of The Birthday Party. As the film progresses the cuts between different media speed up and become increasingly elegant – 20 000 Days is one with the latest and greatest digital cinema projects.
It also joins the trend of multi media events having their UK premiere live over satellite; and just like the most recent NT Live films it shows how ambitious British cinema has become. For more reasons than these, films like 20 000 Days on Earth are the future of cinema.
Sparkling reviews from respected critics like Danny Leigh and Nick James have helped create a hype around this film and I’d advise seeing it while the hype is still there, while Nick Cave fans are still cooing around you, it really helps the experience. You’d better have a pretty impressive home cinema: otherwise it’s just too good to miss.