One of Australia’s greatest musical exports who doesn’t wear flannel, Nick Cave is many things. A poet, a dreamer, raconteur, punk, visionary, composer, storyteller. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Cave defies easy categorisation. His music can take you to the depths of despair, or lull you into a deep sense of calm.
Nick Cave and long-time friend and collaborator Warren Ellis have been working together for nearly 20 years, after being invited to join the Bad Seeds all the way back in 1993. They’ve been through numerous projects together, including the Bad Seeds and Grinderman. Also, collaborations on film scores for films such as “The Proposition”, “The Road” and “Lawless”.
After such a long and fruitful creative partnership over the years, the two men could be forgiven for slowing down – but that’s not their style. Chronicling the creative process behind not one but two albums, This Much I Know to be True takes us inside the studio for the process shared by these two creative geniuses, as they nurture each song into existence.
Slivers of Creative & Philosophical Insight
Part concert film, part off-the-cuff interviews, “This Much I Know to be True” marks the second film made by Andrew Dominik about Cave, after their 2016 collaboration “One More Time With Feeling”. This is a very different project, as their prior effort was very much informed and defined by the recent shock of Cave’s 15-year-old son’s unexpected demise.
While “One More Time With Feeling” felt like an outpouring of grief and sorrow as much as it was a documentary about the creative process, there’s nowhere near as much emotional heavy lifting this time around. This film is overall more optimistic and hopeful, as it goes inside the creative relationship between Ellis and Cave as they work on “Ghosteen” and “Carnage” together.
We are given access to the inner workings of Cave in particular, as he takes us on a tour of the facility they’ve outfitted to write and rehearse these songs. Once a Bristol factory space, it has been remodelled into a weird eclectic mix of ballroom, rehearsal space, sparse living quarters, and a ceramics studio (as an outlet from an outlet?) Like Cave himself, the space is unique, baroque, and sometimes nonsensical.
Of course, the interview sections and tours are really playing second fiddle (no pun intended) to the music itself. Dominik uses a strange, floating camera set-up to capture the musicians at work. They work through the arrangements with session musicians and Cave anchors proceedings with his presence. He sings each song with undiminished earnestness and passion – like it’s the last song anyone will ever hear.
These brilliant sections are also intercut with lighter-toned, bantery moments. Ellis and Cave trade have good-natured barbs with one another, as only friends and creative partners of 30 years can. Dominik asks Cave how Ellis came to be such a central collaborator, within the Bad Seeds and without. “He took a subordinate role and slowly, one by one, took out each member of the Bad Seeds,” deadpans Cave.
“I’m the next to go. He’s singing a lot more, I’ve noticed.”
But the music is the true hero, and it is here where the documentary feels the most complete and focused. It captures the collaborative process as they rehearse new material both for recording and an upcoming tour. “This Much I Know to be True” is a must-see for Cave fans. It combines a clear love for the man’s music with interesting insights into the creative process that goes into it.
“This Much I Know to be True” hits select cinemas in May. Until then, here’s the trailer:
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