An early scene in the new film One More Time with Feeling finds the songwriter and Bad Seeds bandleader Nick Cave, a lyricist fixated on tales of calamity and redemption, discarding a cornerstone of his career. "I don’t believe in narrative anymore," he says, gazing out a car window. "I just don’t believe that’s what life is like."
If Cave seems adrift and beset by spiritual crisis, it’s due to the tragic death of his 15-year-old son, who fell from a cliff near the family home in Brighton, England last summer. The incident, though hardly referred to explicitly, stalks every moment of the movie. Cave scoffs, in one scene, at empty "platitudes," especially the ones dispensed by acquaintances like Hallmark cards, including himself in this indictment as well. "Everything I’m saying," he says, "is bullshit."
A stirring, gorgeously composed movie about splintering under the weight of grief, One More Time with Feeling depicts Cave at home and in the studio recording the Bad Seeds' 16th album, The Skeleton Tree. The hybrid narrative and documentary film, which premiered in theaters Sept. 8, was directed by Andrew Dominik, who's worked closely with the songwriter before: Cave and key collaborator Warren Ellis composed a soundtrack for Dominik's 2007 western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
There’s palpable intimacy — Cave, once a famously combative interviewee, smiles naturally enough to undermine years of dour branding — but there are also references to the cameraman and other such nods to documentary contrivance. The 2014 film 20,000 Days on Earth, which ostensibly chronicled Cave writing and recording the Bad Seeds’ last album, similarly combined documentary tropes and screenwriting, though to significantly more misdirecting effect.