Critics' Pick

20,000 Days on Earth (NR)

Documentary 95 min. September 23, 2014
By Stephanie Zacharek
20,000 Days on Earth is a documentary about an artist — Australian-born singer, musician, and composer Nick Cave — made by artists, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, who have a background in experimental film and video art. The surprise is how plainspoken, illuminating and delightful it is, and, as shot by Erik Wilson, how beautiful. It's that rare documentary that works as its own visual creation.

Of course Cave, whether you know his music or not, is a pretty interesting guy. 20,000 Days on Earth is technically a documentary, but it doesn't pretend to any cinéma vérité purity. The movie is set up as a supposedly typical Nick Cave day, scripted with his own words, rendered in voice-over, combined with conversations he has with the people around him. As a singer, Cave sports a growly, brooding voice, and to an extent, his view of life and art matches that sound. One of Pollard and Forsyth's more novel ideas was to sit Cave down with a psychoanalyst, Darian Leader, and capture the proceedings on camera. Leader asks Cave what he fears most. The answer: losing his memory. "Memory is what we are," he says simply. "The sole reason to be alive is your memory."

But in addition to being deeply thoughtful, Cave often seems affable and direct. He shows a wry sense of humor that's not always apparent in his songs, which often conjure the lacy, inky blackness of Victorian mourning attire. 20,000 Days on Earth is meticulously crafted but nonetheless comes off as casual and heartfelt.
Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Blixa Bargeld, Susie Bick, Arthur Cave, Kylie Minogue, Ray Winston Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard, Nick Cave Jim Wilson, Dan Bowen Drafthouse Films

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