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Sleeper of the Week: ‘20,000 Days on Earth’

Sleeper of the Week: '20,000 Days on Earth'

sees everything, but Criticwire is here to point out films that might get lost
Sleeper of the Week takes a film that only few critics have seen and shines some
light on it.

“20,000 Days on Earth”
Dir: Iain Forsyth/Jane Pollard
Criticwire Average: A-

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

You can feel the trust between Cave and the filmmakers, as when he discusses the years he lost to heroin addiction or his fears of losing his memory as he grows older. He has spent his life creating a world in his songs, he tells the therapist — an absurd and violent world of heroes, villains and doomed romance in which God is not only real but an Old Testament presence, watching over everyone and keeping score. In the outside world, the real world, Cave does not believe in God. But this dense, puzzling and often gorgeous film —itself something like a melancholy and doom-haunted Nick Cave song, or like a delicious chocolate with an insect center — reminds us that God and reality and the world are all things we make up as we travel the mysterious road from birth to death. Read more.

Keith Phipps, The Dissolve

For longtime Nick Cave fans, nothing here will prove all that revealing. Cave recounts his upbringing in Australia, his time in The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds, his drug habit, and his shifting attitudes toward religion. But 20,000 Days On Earth is less about information than presentation, with Cave providing a lyrical, reflective, yet unpretentious voiceover as he goes about the work of being Nick Cave. Read more.
Anne Katrin-Titze, Eye for Film

Life flashing in front of your eyes before death is constructed in reverse, leading to the birth of 20,000 Days on Earth. The buoyant balance of opposites renders Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth’s portrait supreme. Stranger than fiction, Nick Cave takes us on a journey to the center of his world and those who orbit around him. Read more.

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