Nick Cave has long been gothic melodrama made rock and roll. The Australian has spent more than four decades, first leading the art-punk band The Birthday Party and then leading the prodigious formation The Bad Seeds, finding inspiration in the macabre and the dark, and in the trail that death leaves. among the living. In the years after the death of his teenage son Arthur in 2015, yes, grief ceased to be his muse to become an enemy to escape from, and that flight was precisely portrayed on his exquisite album ‘Ghosteen’ (2019). And until Monday, his healing process seemed on track; This was made clear by ‘Carnage’, the album he released last year as a duet with multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis -a member of The Bad Seeds since 1994- and from which emanated an aura of optimism and a message in favor of the collective union facing an uncertain and dark present.
That’s how it was until Monday, yes, when Cave himself announced the death of another of his sons, Jethro, at the age of 31. The exact circumstances of his death are unknown -the young man was schizophrenic, and had just spent a few weeks in jail for physically attacking his mother-, and if the tragedy will affect the series of concerts in Europe that the musician has scheduled from next month, the second of them on June 4 at the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona. In the midst of that uncertainty, this Wednesday will take place in cinemas in many cities around the world -dozens of Spanish theaters between them- the premiere, that day only, of the documentary ‘This Much I Know To Be True’, in which Cave and Ellis explore their creative relationship and perform songs from both ‘Ghosteen’ and ‘Carnage’ .
product of the pandemic
The film is a product of the pandemic. Unable to go on tour and therefore communicate directly with the public, the two musicians decided to do it through the screen, and it is logical that for this they called the Australian filmmaker Andrew Dominik. After all, it was he who already directed the devastating documentary with which ‘This Much I Know To Be True’ composes a diptych, ‘Once More Time With Feeling’ (2016), which had initially been designed as a chronicle of the recording of The Bad Seeds’ album ‘Skeleton Tree’ (2016) but which, due to the death of Arthur, became a stark reflection on pain, pure and unbearable. The contrast between the two films is evident. “The first one showed a devastated Nick, and in this one, we see him totally recovered,” explains Dominik. “He is a man who has been endowed with vital wisdom by tragedy. He continues to feel pain, but he no longer suffers. And I found it very interesting to document that particular state.”
The transformation is evident on numerous occasions during the documentary. Its first sequence takes us into the workshop where Cave works on a series of sculptures that portray the life of the Devil and that, he assures in the film, help him “give life order and meaning”; in another we learn about his work at the head of the website ‘The Red Hand Files’, in which he communicates directly with his fans. “It brings out the best in my nature,” he says of the project. Not surprisingly, many of those who write to you do so for advice about their loss.Of course, the change in mood is also reflected in how Cave and Ellis perform the songs and how Dominik’s camera captures those performances. Unlike the melancholic intimacy that enveloped the musical moments of ‘Once More Time With Feeling’, those of ‘This Much I Know To Be True’ evoke a grandiose concert. A camera in frequent circular motion surrounds the musicians on stage, located in an imposing ship, and flanked by lighting towers that behave like living creatures that react to each sound hit. Driven by that scenery, and by those lyrics full of existential density, the music manages to transmit a cathartic impetus.
Throughout all those scenes, we say, ‘This Much I Know To Be True’ familiarizes us with the creative symbiosis between two great artists: Cave, a decrepit dandy who exudes poise and rogue elegance when he performs; Ellis, a mythological-looking instrumentation wizard who seems to go into a trance onstage. As a couple or with the rest of The Bad Seeds, and unlike many other musicians whose careers span decades, have kept their sound constantly evolving. “There are a lot of terrible things that happen when Warren and I get together in a room, but there are also moments where transcendence emerges,” Cave says in the documentary about that alliance.
Given that Cave’s music exudes an almost cinematographic capacity for evocation, neither the number of documentaries that have focused on his figure in the last decade are surprising – it is worth highlighting among them ‘20,000 days on Earth’ (2014) – nor the numerous film soundtracks that he has composed to date with Ellis. Among others, the pair have created the scores for two of Dominik’s films, the magnificent western ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Cowardly Robert Ford’ (2007) and ‘Blonde’, the Marilyn Monroe biopic that will be released in the coming months. In any case, the relationship that the filmmaker maintains with Cave transcends the professional. “I have known him personally since the 1980s, when I started dating his ex-girlfriend Diana. Nick is a very beautiful person, and I am happy that he has managed to overcome as he has,” Dominik said last February, at the Berlin Film Festival , long before the tragedy has returned to take it with Cave. “He has understood that, when our lives reach a certain point, they essentially become a succession of losses, and understanding that has given him a certain inner peace & rdquor ;. Without a doubt, at this time he will find refuge in her.
Cinemas in Catalonia where you can see the documentary on May 11
Arenas Multiplexes, Bosque Multiplexes, Balmes Multiplexes, Yelmo Comedy Cinemas, Yelmo Cinemas Icaria
Helm Park Central Cinemas