How many days have we been on Earth? Are we sure we fully lived each one of those days? These and other questions directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard raised to the audience on the stage of Somerset House on the 13th August 2014 in occasion of the UK Premiere of “20,000 Days On Earth” starring rock poet Nick Cave. Then the singer himself appeard in a video message and the film started. Who was expecting a music documentary about the Australian mercurial star was satisfied and puzzled at the same time, since “20,000 Days” is not just a documentary and a portrait of the artist but also a movie, a noir, a work of art staged as a Hitchcock thriller. The movie is perhaps the most original music-docudrama of all times: during a therapy session, Cave tells his story to the psychologist and to the audience, so his long career is told in the most enthralling way differently from many other music documentaries. The creative process of the artist and Art itself are the main themes of the movie, but what matters here is the untold, Cave’s demons and ghosts lurking in the dark. “My greatest fear is losing memory”, he says during therapy, “because we are memory”. Memories help him in the creative process, the artist re-lives and re-imagines them during the process, so his work is a deconstruction of the past, or what we remember of the past. In these moments of creation filtered through memory and past, the artist, for an instant, can catch the present. “…and when you live into the present, you know, you’re god-like”, Cave says, highlighting that his idea of god and angels is very different from what one could think. This god-like image is closer to the epiphanies of Modern literature than to religion. And so on: Cave talks about his father, his music, his concerts, love, death and sexuality, while the real characters of his life join him in the fiction, like friends, colleagues and ghosts. The last ones seem to be the key to the enigma of the thriller, especially his father, who died in a car accident while the 19 years old Nick was in prison. “I was a junkie”, the singer says with candour. He warns us the movie is just a fiction, a lie, but is also memory and truth. Again, like in his music, he displays his love for the underdog, for the dark side, for the “English bad and miserable weather”. And of course the live performance of “Jubilee Street”, closing the movie, reminds us of his apocalyptic world populated by prostitues, blackmailed killers, love and fear. This is Cave’s religion, he’s not interested into our strenght but into our weakness. “It is limitations that make the wonderful disaster we are”, he remarks, and it is in the moment we embrace our fears and we love our demons that we know who we are and we can “slay the dragon”. What a wonderful disaster you are, Nick. Thank you for sharing with us.
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