The ever eloquent Australian wordsmith Nick Cave screened his new film ‘One More Time With Feeling’ in 650 cinemas worldwide on 8th September.
The film, shot almost entirely in black and white, is a heartrending masterpiece which documents the writing and recording process of his new album ‘Skeleton Tree’. ‘One More Time With Feeling’ gave audiences a first chance to hear the new album before its release on 9th September 2016. The recording of the album is accompanied by various interview clips and spoken word. Giving insight to how Cave and his family have felt since the deeply unfortunate death of his 15 year old son, Arthur Cave, who died in July 2015.
Andrew Dominik, known for ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ directed the documentary. The use of 3D is potent and applies itself to Cave’s emotional state especially well. Shots of a desolate Brighton seafront are accompanied by the artists voice, “Women have more facets than men. Men are 2D, women are 3D, and my wife is spectacularly three dimensional”. The decision to shoot the film in 3D largely reflects Cave’s labyrinthine emotional state, and the difficulty he is experiencing trying to express himself. The 3 dimensional film adds great depth and focus to each and every second, lending itself to the way in which Cave is inviting the audience into his life. There are several moments where the 3D filming has a particularly striking effect. During Cave performing ‘Girl in Amber’ the camera moves through a door and moves down the railings of a drastically dark spiral staircase. When the camera reaches the bottom, it hones in on a crack above the exit sign on the door, showing the sun light seeping through. Just as the audience think the camera will pass through the crack and into the light, the shot switches back to Nick singing in the dark and dusty, yet divine studio. Dominik uses fantastic imagery throughout to communicate Nick’s desperation and loss, in the most tasteful way possible.
‘Jesus Alone’, the opening track on ‘Skeleton Tree’ contains the most direct address of Arthur’s tragic death. “You fell from the sky, crash-landed in a field near the River Adur.” Dominik never shows direct questions being asked about Arthur’s death, and Cave and his wife Susie never directly talk about it, only talking about how the loss has affected them. The overall tone of this film is appropriately naturalistic, the shots of Nick working with Warren Ellis, and the shots of Susie and their son Earl effortlessly show the natural process of grief and the process of recording. In the beginning of the film, Nick and Warren are shown to be flustered in the presence of cameras, and the hulking camera equipment falls down mid shoot, Dominik chose not to edit out any accidents. Any fan of Nick Cave could have expected a more abstract film, however the realism of ‘One More Time With Feeling’ is pertinent, demanding the respect of the audience.
The various interview clips provide a look into the ongoing grieving Nick and his family are experiencing. The interviewer nervously says to Nick, “I don’t know if I feel entirely comfortable”, this is accurate to the interviewer, Nick, Susie and the audience. Dominik has created a film so intimate and divulging that the audience gets the feeling that maybe they shouldn’t be watching it at all, and then each time Nick invites you back in, with a song or a glimmer of a smile across his protracted, poignant face.
Cave speaks of his loss using various day to day stories, effortlessly making them sound like poetry. “When did I become an object of pity?” he solemnly reflects upon the shops full of strangers with “kind eyes” since Arthur’s passing. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds demonstrate these daily obstacles in the third song of the ‘Skeleton Tree’, ‘Magneto’. “I had such hard blues down there in the supermarket queues, and I had a sudden urge to become someone, someone like you”.
Cave speaks of how his song writing has changed to become less “narrative” as time has gone by. “I won’t let a line go unless I’m really happy with it. With this record I have got to let that go… The line is successful for another reason”. Dominik simply portrays the difference between the way in which Nick and Susie’s creative processes have been affected by their loss. Susie talks about how her pain is subconsciously channelled into her dress making. Dominik captures the transcendent grace of Susie, wearing her own take on a prairie dress and standing beside a model wearing another of her dresses. In contrast, Cave says in the taxi on the way to the recording studio that “we all wish we have something to write about and make our writing interesting. But trauma was extremely damaging to the creative process”. Nick did not want to write any new material for the album post trauma. “The imagination needs room to work. And when the trauma is too big, there is no room for imagination”.
Dominik makes the solid relationships in Cave’s life perfectly clear, showing definitively the support and love between Nick, his son Earl and his wife Susie, but also Nick and his band member/friend Warren Ellis. Warren is an Australian multi-talented musician and composer, and part of Nick Cave’s band The Bad Seeds as well as Grinderman. The beauty of Ellis’ compositions shine throughout the film, Dominik focuses on Warren during the recording of ‘Distant Sky’; showing only his silhouette as he earnestly and endearingly plays the violin. Nick contemplates what he “would do without him”, it is apparent that Ellis and Cave work together like clockwork, and Ellis is very supportive of Cave.
During the recording of ‘Distant Sky’ the film changes from black and white to colour for a brief period. The camera protrudes through Danish soprano Else Trop and out of the recording studio, gradually zooming upward out of the street, to the city of London, to the United Kingdom and then finally the Earth itself. The stunning contrast between this short scene and the rest of the film conducts a burst of life amongst the slow, sombre shots of Cave.
Towards the end of the film Cave says that “after a while Susie and I decided to be happy” referring to this decision as “an act of revenge and defiance”, before fading into the final track ‘Skeleton Tree’.
The film accompanies Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds new album perfectly and acts as a platform for understanding this frightening, formidable chapter in his life.
This Nick Cave article was written by Lauren Scott, a GIGsoup contributor