NICK CAVE thinks he's a cannibal. "You can ask my wife... she'll tell you, because she's usually the one getting cooked. Because there's an understanding between us, a pact where every secret, sacred moment that exists between a husband and a wife is cannibalized—ground up and spat out the other side in the form of a song." It's a sentiment delivered with malice, desire, and hunger in Cave's Australian growl, sending shivers dancing down spines.
It's one of many visceral experiences in 20,000 Days on Earth. Artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard have made a doozy of a film about the musician/author/actor/screenwriter. Part documentary and part concert film, it boasts heaps of meticulously crafted psychodrama peopled with Cave's real-life family and friends. Over a single fictitious day in the life of the Bad Seeds' frontman, we see Cave: working on songs at his home in Brighton; talking to a therapist about his first sexual encounters; practicing with the band; and having searching conversations with friends who mysteriously appear in his car while driving around the city.
As anyone with even a passing interest in Cave's music knows, he's a natural storyteller. He spends a good chunk of his 20,000th day on Earth unapologetically analyzing his creative process, and the rest is tales of his childhood, thinking about the traumatic death of his father, and ruminating on his long career. 20,000 is punctuated with striking tableaus: a dramatically lit scene of Cave and his twin tween sons watching Scarface on the couch, the sweetness of long-time bandmate Warren Ellis making him a home-cooked meal. They're real moments in a reality-based film. If only all documentaries were this weird, stunning, and stylishly heightened—but then again, it's a singular film for a singular fellow.