There's a new film about Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds directed by Andrew Dominik called One More Time With Feeling. The setting of the film is a recording studio for a performance of songs from Skeleton Tree, the band's 16th studio album. But the backdrop to the film is tragic. In the summer of 2015, Nick Cave's 15-year-old son, Arthur, fell from a cliff while hallucinating on LSD. The film was made about five months later. Cave has not spoken at any length about his son, and this film is, in a way, his statement and thoughts on Arthur's death.
I spoke with Andrew Dominik last week, just after his film opened. The beauty of One More Time With Feeling is in the way it tackles such a devastating event without a straightforward narrative. Dominik said that the film was a "collection of fleeting moments and these moments would be confusing and contradictory, and I wanted to create an experiential space so they can wash over you." He shot the band in the studio using beautiful 3-D black and white photography as it put the finishing touches on Skeleton Tree. Dominik felt that "3-D is enveloping, and black and white is distancing and I thought the two things would go well together." And that feeling is essential to the experience of the film as a voyeur, a viewer listening in to these very personal thoughts and emotional expression.
One early conversation in the film centers on the prophetic nature of the songs on the new album, all written before Arthur died. One of the first songs in the film — and the opening track to the new album — begins with the line, "You fell from the sky, crash-landed in a field near the River Adur."
Much of the film goes on to delve into how making art, in this case performing the songs from Skeleton Tree, was a way for Cave to deal with his son's sudden death — not always successfully. It's a powerful original portrait of grief without the usual close-ups, flashing cameras and manufactured drama.