Beyond Fright Review: 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH
Documentaries on famous people, whether they be actors, filmmakers or musicians, can be an interesting experience. While the idea of a documentary is one of feeling like you have a complete inside look into someone’s life, their stories, and their experiences, the truth of it all is that you’re in reality just seeing what they put in front of you, in front of the camera filming them. Sure a lot of what is in said documentaries tend to be somewhat truthful, the fact of the matter is, that even in documentaries, everybody plays a part: the part that they want you to believe.
The Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard-directed 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH does in a somewhat fictional way, what many documentaries set out to do: really give you great insight into what is going on inside of the subject’s head, mind and soul. Instead of pretending to be a 100% truthful and non-fiction film about the ins and outs of musician/screenwriter/artist Nick Cave’s life to date, the film takes a fictional day in the life of Cave, and jumps right into what makes him do what he does, why he thinks the way he thinks, and what leads him to the creative places that so many people (including myself) hold close to their hearts. In a half non-fiction and half fictional approach, the film accomplishes an almost poetic and artistically fulfilling look at Cave, and the odd yet completely engrossing endeavors of his creative mind.
At one point, somewhat early on in the film, as Cave is deep into speaking with a psychologist regarding his childhood and his father, he says, “My biggest fear,..is losing my memory”. It’s that statement that really cements the film in my opinion, as a combination of something real and something written for dramatic purposes. Not in a “make me look better” type of way, but one that sums up the film perfectly: how actual real life and the reality that we as artists, can create, sometimes merging into one, making what we typically consider our “memory” an actual hybrid of the two. When Cave describes how he’s spent a lot of his life building narrative song about those old memories of his, combined with the “memories” of chasing what he would want to become, the fiction meets non-fiction approach of the 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH really begins to reveal itself, making one hell of a film, and one that not even twenty-one minutes into, you’re addicted to, wanting to continue through the film to experience that combination of reality and the experience the process of creating one.
Stylistically, the film shifts, very flawlessly, between that conversation between Cave and his psychiatrist, and the experiences of beginning to record a new album, going through his day to day life, and various situations of that things that he is speaking about. Becoming the thing that as a child, you dream of. Having non-fictional ideas and thought-processes in fictional settings. It’s those hybrid situations that really help to make 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH such a groundbreaking film, one that feels completely and utterly original. The duality of being a look at Nick Cave and his experiences and a fictional day in the life of his journey as an artist works on every single level. It never once feels pretentious or without reason, instead leaving its hook in your for the whole 97 minutes of visual and lyrical accomplishment. With conversations between Cave and people like actor Ray Winstone in a car, talking about performing right before Winstone just disappears, to former members of Cave’s band talking about why the left before again, disappearing, the film deals with the balance of reality and imagination to the point of not knowing at times, which one is happening.
“Who knows their own story? Certainly it makes no sense, when we are living in the midst of it. It’s all just clamor and confusion. It only becomes a story when we tell it, and retell it“. It’s that quote from the film that really hits within the idea of the film. A combination of the reality on the outside and the reality inside of our heads, combined to become the story we want it to be. It’s a daring and bold look at a real artist, and the artistic places he puts himself internally to make the art that comes from those places. If there’s a film that defines art this year, it’s 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH.