The best possible way to experience an album for the first time: as a one-night-only feature film, with some halting interview footage and rehearsals and home stuff, but also the songs played in full, with a different magnificent visual scheme for each.
Cave is someone who is stronger when he is singing. Likewise, the film becomes more cinematic at this point, creating essentially standalone footage of the songs, swooping through chinks in the studio wall to sail over the city.
It’s good to know a couple basic details of the Traumatic Event beforehand since the movie doesn’t spell it out – nobody’s here to talk about that, just about the process of getting through the aftermath, through the music and otherwise. Having some knowledge of the Event makes certain conversations, song lyrics and performances unbearably moving. That feeling seeped into the album when I first played it the next day, but I’m feeling it less as time passes since watching the movie version – maybe I need to stop listening to the album for a while.
Cave wrote the songs which appear on the new Bad Seeds album Skeleton Tree before Arthur’s death but recorded them afterward, and Dominik’s film is a document of that recording … The “event,” in Cave’s own words, instantly made him into another person, into “someone else inside my skin.” So the Cave we see singing is not the same Cave who wrote the words in his mouth, and yet the songs are all, every one of them, about dread and loss and love so sharp and yearning it feels like hurt. The uncanny resonances that the lyrics contain — and always contained — can be ascribed to the fact that Cave’s songwriting has always tended toward the doomy, but he suggests, with typically matter-of-fact mysticism, it’s also partly because his songs have elements of prophecy. That thought, of tragedy foretold, might be enough to drive another person mad, but like everything else in the jetstream of an unimaginable horror, the logic of the old you, the way you think you would behave if such-and-such occurred, is simply obliterated. It’s one of the reasons, Cave explains at the start of the film, why he’s moved away from narrative in his songwriting: he just doesn’t believe any more that life happens neatly, one thing then the next, the way it does in stories.
Dominik seems interesting. I vaguely recall watching his Chopper on DVD (to check out that Eric Bana guy before his Hulk movie opened), and IMDB says he did uncredited camera work on The New World.
As it happens, Cave himself commissioned the film on realizing that once the record was to be released, he would be obliged to promote it. He is still so seared by his trauma that he can’t bear the idea of being asked by journalists about it repeatedly; so this, then, is his communiqué, albeit a communiqué mediated by another genuine artist.