The title of “20,000 Years on Earth” refers to singer-songwriter Nick Cave’s age at the time the film was made. The movie follows Cave as he performs songs from the latest Bad Seeds album, visits a therapist, and talks with friends Ray Winstone, Kylie Minogue, and others about his creative process. But the film also shifts from documentary to dramatization, from views of the workaholic present-day Cave to talks about his troubled past, his heroin addiction, his changing views on religion, and the woman who saved him from self-destruction.
Critics have referred to “20,000 Days on Earth” as an example of rock documentary as poetry rather than prose, an impressionistic view of who Nick Cave is and who he was rather than a straight retelling. That’s what separates it from most rock docs. It’s a film that’s at once candid and mysterious, a perfect mix for a songwriter who’s always been both.
“20,000 Days on Earth” is now in theaters.
Kyle Burton, Paste Magazine
It’s the rock doc for people tired of rock docs. It’s biographical only in the most artistic sense. A psychoanalyst well-regarded in Britain stands in for the journalist. Through the first two acts, we return to his session with Cave. He asks about Cave’s greatest fear and with his questions gets Cave to paint for us this image of the singer’s father as a loving, ethereal specter. When speaking directly, Cave doesn’t actually think of his father in this way. But his childhood, as are all of ours, is only memory. Read more.
Cory Everett, The Playlist
Far from your ordinary music doc, the film is loosely set in a fictional 24 hours in Cave’s life as he examines his own songwriting process and transforms his music from an unformed sketch to a live show scorcher. It also features hallucinatory interviews and staged sequences with voiceover provided by Cave. Unusual as it may be, it’s the only approach that suits an artist as unique as this one. Read more.
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
Keith Phipps, The Dissolve