Neither a concert film nor a biopic, 20,000 Days on Earth approaches Nick Cave's life and work in a roundabout way, featuring surrealist conversations between the Bad Seeds and Birthday Party frontman and artists including Kylie Minogue, Ray Winstone and Warren Ellis. In between, there is live footage from a performance at the Sydney Opera House.
Here, watch a scene in which Cave speaks with a psychoanalyst about a moving Nina Simone performance he witnessed at a concert in London. "Before she went on, she called me to her room," he remembers, "and she was sitting there in her chair, and she was the nastiest woman." Onstage, however, her demeanor changed: "Through the process of this show [she] became this other thing and you could see it within the audience, how they responded to this. And til the end she was up at the front and touching people and dancing on the stage.... It was an absolutely transformative performance."
Last year, Cave spoke with Rolling Stone about this sort of artistic transformation and how it relates to the new documentary. "It's not like playing a character," he said. "That's a thread through the film – any idea that there is a character and a real person no longer applies. After years of performing, the mask calcifies under the face."
20,000 Days on Earth was directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard and will be released today on DVD and on-demand. It can be purchased here.