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Monday, April 7, 2014

20,000 DAYS ON EARTH: ND/NF Closing Night Review

Photo courtesy of Drafthouse Films
2014, 95 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollards' 20,000 Days on Earth is guaranteed to be one of the most unusual and hypnotizing films that you'll have ever seen.  The film is a hybrid of documentary and narrative (more documentary though) and follows a day in the life of Renaissance Man Nick Cave who is a singer, composer, and screenwriter, among many other things.  Winner of the Directing and Editing Prizes at Sundance 2014, this film is truly something different.

Nick Cave is a fascinating person and watching his life through Forsyth and Pollard's hyper-stylized lens makes this film hypnotic.  Entire sequences played on-screen and I was completely entranced.  This happened most memorably during a sequence in which Cave is in psychoanalysis and when he is singing a beautiful song on his piano.  These sequences are so hypnotic because they are so full of life, so full of soul and introspection that it is impossible to look away.

We are now in an age where the lines between documentary and fictional narrative are being blurred.  With films like The Act of Killing, Stories We Tell, and now 20,000 Days on Earth, our conception of what documentary is is being changed, and it is a sight to behold.  These films are as inventive as they come and add some spice to a genre frequently associated with boring voiceover and talking head interviews.

Reviewing a film like 20,000 Days On Earth is almost pointless, as it is simply a movie that should be seen and not read about.  In many ways, there has never been a film like it.  While it is a documentary, many sequences are staged.  However, while sequences have been staged for the film, such as the scene in the psychoanalyst's office, what happens in those scenes is real.  In other words, it is a real psychotherapy session staged for the film.

Overall, this is, without exaggeration, one of the greatest documentaries of all time.  I don't want to say much more about this so as not to spoil any of the film's surprises.  This is an amazing piece of filmmaking that will move, electrify, educate, and hypnotize you as you view it.  20,000 Days On Earth was an excellent way to close New Directors/New Films.


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