Calling 20,000 Days on Earth “a documentary about Nick Cave” is both accurate and deeply reductive. Yes, its primary focus is a walk through Cave’s life and career and zeroes in on the creation of his last album, 2013’s Push the Sky Away, but it is so full of stunningly considered ideas and cheeky surrealism that it is unlike any rock doc ever made.
That was the point, according to Cave. “Music documentaries are often very similar to meeting a hero, you know? You love the person’s music but you wish you never met them,” he told EW during a discussion of the film. “They often do more damage than good, I think. They attempt to make the subject of the documentary human, and that’s not really what we want to see.”
So that’s why 20,000 Days on Earth (which is currently in theaters) contains not only fly-on-the-wall footage of Cave and his band the Bad Seeds working out songs ideas, but also strange conversations with friends (including former Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld and fellow Australian Kylie Minogue), a staged psychotherapy session, and a lengthy sequence that finds Cave going through his personal archives. In one of the film’s most naked and revelatory scenes, Cave talks about old photographs, tells stories about living in Berlin, and even goes over an old will he wrote for himself back in the late ’80s.
Below, watch an exclusive clip of Cave commenting on that will, plus his general nomad nature during that period.
That clip is a good example of the power of the film—it’s playful, intimate, profound, and comments on the nature of memory, which is a big over-arching theme for Cave.