20,000 Days on Earth

If we’ve ever met then you already know that one my favorite films is Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days on Earth which is part documentary and part autobiographic visual essay. Throughout the film Nick talks about his writing, his music making, how he met Kylie Minogue, and how he fell in love with his wife. His friends will appear next to him in his car like ghosts that forever haunt him and they’ll talk about performing live on stage, about their work together, and they’ll give a short interview that’s sort of haunting as they disappear without ever saying goodbye.

I’ve watched this film at least half a dozen times by now and with each viewing I find something else that’s mesmerizing about it. This time around I noticed Nick’s obsession with the weather; his journals describe Brighton’s storms as something unrelenting, a warning and portent of the future. In one moment, Nick looks up at the clouds as they smash into one another and lighting crackles on the horizon. “The sky in Brighton is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” he says. “What I fear most is nature—now that it’s sent its weather to exact revenge—soon the weather will put on a real show.”

In another, Nick is talking about why he lives in Brighton, why he moved from Australia, and why the weather helps him write music. Nick is driving down the main thoroughfare of Brighton’s seaside, everything else is out of focus, and he says: “You know I can control the weather with my moods.”

“I just can’t control my moods.”

All of this is to say that Nick Cave writes in a way that makes me mad with jealousy. It’s last-panel-of-a-comic-book-stuff. You the know the sort, where all is lost and the double page spread ends on a note of sadness, but the hero is defiant against all the calamitous tragedies that have led up to this moment. Our hero has lost and yet he’s still smiling that big, invincible smile.