I watched Nick Cave’s “One More Time With Feeling” documentary last night, not really knowing what to expect. I certainly didn’t realise I was going to have to put on 3D glasses for a start, nor did I know it was going to be entirely in black and white, but perhaps I should have guessed (except for a little bit of colour towards the end).
I have to say this film was one of the most moving, beautiful, raw, heartbreaking, exposing bits of cinematography I have ever seen. We are invited into the heart of the Cave to witness their pain. Not only within their beautiful white washed family home in Brighton, but also into his music studio and there we sit with them all, watching them agonise, struggle and mull over the chaotic enormity of the unimaginable grief of their family trauma they had to endure when their eldest son Arthur died last year. The 3D effect provides an added layer of personality, depth and edgy artiness that draws you in so that you feel even more part of the experience. You literally feel their pain. As fly on the wall documentaries go, I have never felt more like the fly. Swirling and swooping through such a private space was a true privilege and I felt thankful for being let in. This is a portrait in gentleness, all the more tender because of the circumstances behind the production.
“Time is elastic” says Nick as he describes what has happened to them since the tragedy. There are pockets of time and space that have been “OK” moving forward, he says, but then suddenly snap, they are taken hurtling back to the day and the night of the tragic event that has been ring fenced. Nick talks about trying to find a solution – some sort of ultimate platitude that he can quote like “he lives on in your heart”, but at the time of filming he describes not feeling like that, that he isn’t in his heart and that he needs to find a way to create a space that works for him. Well, we all know that Nick Cave is not one for platitudes at the best of times and the lyrics on his new album “Skeleton Tree” are extraordinary and say more than he could ever have hoped to say in a cliche. I believe he has created that space in this film. It is a beautiful, heart-wrenching ode to his son and I am sure one that has been a significant part of their journey during that long painful climb out of despair. This is clearly a form of counselling for Nick, and as part of his process of healing he has created something immensely beautiful and astonishingly powerful.
Susie; his wife, Earl; his child, The Bad Seeds; his band – are all in it together. Warren Ellis is clearly a life saver and his strength and their bond is wonderfully portrayed. It feels so powerful to watch them try to create a support system around each other. Nick describes at the end how they made a choice to be happy, to try to care about each other, to try to be kind. His beautiful, fragile wife has her pain etched all over her face and yet, she too is finding a way to cope and what is amazing to see is that they seem to be finding the strength together, instead of apart – which is moving and life affirming. Without realising it, they have given one of the strongest messages of hope possible. There are no promises, no happy endings. They just unwittingly show you how to carry on with grace, humour and love.
The humour, bonding and love shines throughout the whole documentary and as Nick says, “there is more paradise in hell than we’ve been told”. This is a film about the making of his latest album “The Skeleton Tree”, but it is so much more than a music documentary as we are taken on the rollercoaster journey of a poet who is trying to make sense of his new world order. To understand the different man he has now become. Polished and exquisitely beautiful one minute and then raw and uncut the next – undoubtedly hypnotic throughout.
Arthur would have been very proud of what they have achieved and whilst they are unable to provide any answers for any kind of salvation there is a deep hope that shines through that feels very tangible and made we want to cry and wrap my arms around them all. This film is going to stay with me for a very long time. Everyone should see it and if you’re not a Nick Cave fan now, you will be afterwards, for sure.