20 000 Days On Earth screening and Q&A at Berlinale 2014

I tried to make a non-spoiler report of the event. It worked quite well, so don´t be afraid, I have not added detailed scene descriptions. This will be a review by a fan. There are lots of recollections written by the press, but I was keen on writing an individual one for Fixes instead of collecting snippets written by professionals because I think its a different angle seeing it when you are living with that tiny Nick Cave goblin in your brain day by day since years plus: I had control over the spoilers.

There we are in front of the International cinema at Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin waiting to see what a documentary about one fictionalized day in the life of our favourite artist will look like. Its a large cinema and therefore also those of us who were not sure if its a good idea to sit in the front row decide that it is.

So there was nothing between us and the huge screen that would contain a lot of Nick Cave within the next hours and though my neck might disagree – that decision was a good one because it was like being swamped by a huge version of him and I could not wipe a delirious smile off my face for most of the time.

I can only speak for myself, but the beginning of the movie was quite hard to watch. I heard other voices that said it is very nice, but for me it was a shocker. The good news: After having seen the full movie I thought the start was especially brilliant.

Iain and Jane said in an interview that they were not interested in taking off the mask and that they want to keep a certain myth about the artist. Those first few moments of the film make you worry for a short while they were serious about it. To me it was a well-done demonstration of the fact that Jane Pollard is right. I want that a project that involves parts of Nicks personal life does not make him look too normal and ordinary. Though I am fine with the fact that he has this side and have seen glimpses of it that were very charming, I can´t think of a good reason why pieces of art that involve him should show too much of it. So I am very happy about the way they realized that in the movie.

In the complete film there is not one single moment when I had to doubt if I want to see that. It was a perfect mix of fiction and reality. I have never seen anything like that and it completely overwhelmed me to see so much of this man I admire without something destroying what he is for me. It was more like being close to him during shows when you let him drew you into his own world than anything that reminds you of “reality TV”.

There are certain passages in it that the ones who read most articles that come out will remember because he repeated them in interviews during 2013. I made up my mind about this topic more than once and think that Nick himself is also working actively on the myth. He said in different contexts that he has the feeling he becomes the thing that he creates. The movie is fuel for that flame and I am sure opinions will be different on that, but the transformation Nick likes to mention is something he seems to go through not only on stage. His whole persona changes. The character we as followers see at least. When I thought about that I remembered an interview with Mick Harvey I read. Mick said something similiar like he won´t say how many different Nick Caves he got to see during the years cause he does not want Nick to send him his lawyers.

The movie makes you think a lot. I would be curious what people who just watched it as a rock documentary think about it, people who are not that much into Nick, just to compare both strings of thought to each other because I imagine they can be quite different.

Apart from all the glory of diving into what is presented as the content of Nick Caves head in that movie it also makes you think further about what reality is and what the whole rockstar/cult figure hype is build upon and if its a good thing or a bad thing. You also question yourself because you see this sharp line even better in that movie. Between a “normal” creative person and the superhuman you tend to make out of him.

During the Q&A when answering the question what kind of rock documentaries he likes Nick talks about rockstars being viewed as gods. Luckily someone filmed that part and put it up on youtube. So you can see for yourself:

While sitting in front of Nick, now finally regretting your decision to go for the front row because you needed a break after the movie before you were hit by his physical presence, you ask yourself why your heart is beating so fast and why you act like a nervous child. Then Jane Pollard says that even people who know Nick tend to be different when they are around him and you think “Ok then” and smile yourself randomly through what seems to be an eternity.

The man himself seems to be a) tired of talking b) not comfortable with the whole situation c) would prefer to go out smoking than sitting down and answer questions. He randomly searches something in his pockets he does not seem to find and he switches between being very charming and very arrogant and I don´t want to use the word arrogant in such a negative way here. It just means that a person is trying to hide/protect behind a certain attitude and that was fitting the whole topic of the evening very well. Nevertheless he says quite a lot in the end. I especially remember him saying that he is fine with whatever mental disorders he has because they work good for him after being asked if he wants to do a real psychotherapy after he talked to the psychoanalyst for the movie. That was interesting for me because it was what I always thought would be Nicks attitude towards it. Iain and Janes answers make the fact that they created a beautiful beast with this film seem so effortless, like their instinct just tells them the right things. I am sure it is not that easy, but they make it sound like a kind of natural process from their perspective.

I finish with what stood out for me the most in the movie and is my personal conclusion: I want Iain and Jane to make all concert videos. I know they have better things to do as the film proves they are very talented and have an outstanding sense for the visual presentation of things, but the material is breathtaking. It left me, and not only me, speechless and very emotional. I have no idea how they did it, but they captured the massive energy of a Bad Seeds concert in a way I have rarely seen before. After whatever I think about how I glorify Nick Cave: This is the very essence of why I ended up in this kind of “cult”. Seeing those concert snippets on such a large screen, reminding the hours you´ve spend in front of that stage yourself. Being sucked in and spit out by that machine. Having been mesmerized by this amazing band and Nick Cave in his purest state, as the outstanding performer he is…it stops you question anything. Its all perfect like it is.

Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. Humble as hell and really gifted. I have expected it to be good, but it blew me away.

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6 thoughts on “20 000 Days On Earth screening and Q&A at Berlinale 2014

  1. Thank you for this review, Anna. Great write-up. I’m so thankful that you attended and were able to post this for us to read. You make me curious about the film’s beginning and why you were shocked. Hm.

    I’m looking forward to this film because of the style and approach. Not just because it’s about Nick. (Well, you know what I mean.) So far as I understand it, without seeing the film, I love Iain and Jane’s concept of mixing of fantasy with reality, the surreal and hyperreal, to interpret Nick Cave life and work.

    Fwiw: The Song Remains the Same was great, but the fantasy sequences were off-putting, even at the time it was released. Frankly, I just wanted to see the concert, not Robert fucking Plant riding around on a horse pretending he’s a knight or some goddamn thing. It was pretentious and ridiculous. Somehow, I’m pretty sure this film is anything but.

    • Hey my dear lady I´m glad you liked my recollection!

      Ha what you say about The Song Remains the Same is true. I´ve seen it years ago and even though I was a teenager and wasn´t very interested in the way this band liked to see themselves as “godlike figures” I already giggled at that scene with the horse though I really like the music by Led Zeppelin. But I was a 90s child, I grew up when young rockstars like Kurt killed themselves cause they could not stand it and my view on “stardom” was also formed by a little very down to earth musicscene that was active in my town back then and we all loved that we saw the guys in the subway regularly and they liked that nobody was freaking out and they could live in peace. Still they were heroes for us young people.

      Maybe being an icon is not about being silly and showing yourself like you´re some king dingeling but about keeping a certain myth about the work itself. And thats what I think was a success with that film. Nick does not come across like a pretentious idiot but like the artist he is in it, which is satisfying for anyone who loves him and I guess quite nice to watch for anyone who is interested in this kind of idea about a “documentary”. Its an interesting topic. I like to make up my mind about it especially cause Nick is the first artist ever who became something that big for me. Still I´m fine with the fact that he is a normal human being these days though this human being he is excites me a bit too much from time to time 😀 I think the art by and about him has no real need to show too much. Keeping your “real privacy” can be a very good thing.

      I think Nick also said that The Songs Remains the Same is partly really embarassing to watch 😀

  2. Glad you liked reading it 🙂

    And Mark I´m sorry about the missing shirt info! 😀 Maybe that was because I wore a dress this time and the upper part was black so I decided it was not exciting enough for the review. I should have included the curtain. It was like the gold shirt that got famous. Iain and Jane also expressed their love for the gold glitter and I loved their shoes. So fashion was a topic again, no worries 😀

    Crossing my fingers for you all to be able to see it soon!

  3. Nice one, Anna, thanks for taking the time to write and post that [even though you neglected to describe which shirt you wore this time]. Here’s looking forward to the NYC screening, whenever that may be.

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