Facets Cinémathèque

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October 17–23, 2014

Chicago Theatrical

20,000 Days on Earth

Film still: 20,000 Days on Earth Film still: 20,000 Days on Earth Film still: 20,000 Days on Earth Film still: 20,000 Days on Earth
Directing Award
Editing Award
Film Fest
Instanbul Intl
Film Fest
Critics' Pick
  —New York Times
"Plainspoken, illuminating, and delightful... meticulously crafted but nonetheless feels casual and heartfelt"
  —Village Voice
"An aptly intense and innovative study"
"Masterfully crafted... It's right up there with the best rock documentaries"
  —San Francisco Chronicle
"The film doesn't feel tied to any kind of chronological narrative or journalistic agenda; instead it flows like smoke"
  —AV Club
3 stars½
3 stars½
  —Chicago Tribune
Recommended "20,000 Days On Earth is stellar, a rich, luxuriant, calibrated auto-portrait... this bold, unique gem is bright, funny, brooding, hopeful, momentarily visionary, a wounded beauty exploring the creative process in a fresh and oft-brilliant fashion"
  —NewCity Chicago
5 stars "Smart and deliriously strange... The film conceals as much as it reveals, and its beauty is that it pretends to do nothing else. It embraces a mystery and protects it, and it's thrilling to behold"
  —TimeOut Chicago

Nick Cave has long been one of the most fascinating and enigmatic figures in the music and film world. 20,000 Days on Earth enhances his mystique. This innovative drama/documentary features Cave as both subject and co-conspirator, intimately documenting his artistic process and combining it with a fictional staged narrative of his 20,000th day on Earth. As a result, this highly stylized biopic also explores the creative spirit, as it weaves two parallel narrative threads. The first is a cinematic portrait of Cave's 20,000th day, created through a series of staged, but not scripted, scenes and encounters. The second looks in depth at his creativity—from writing through recording and rehearsal to performance. One of the more wonderful concepts the film introduces features people from Cave's past, actor Ray Winstone, singer Kylie Minogue and former band mate Blixa Bargeld, as they ride in Cave's car while having imaginary conversations of reverie and remembrance.

This unique blend of documentary essay and cinematic fiction demonstrates the connection between Cave and the filmmakers, visual artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard; all three are illuminating the search for truth through artifice and myth. And, of course, the film features the chthonic music of Cave himself with the Bad Seeds, as his live performances are studies in controlled ferocity, seeming to burrow up from beneath the underneath. This enthralling film offers a glimpse of an icon at his most exposed, even as it adds another layer to his legend.

Directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, United Kingdom, 2013, 95 mins.


  • Fri., Oct. 17 at 7 & 9 pm
  • Sat.–Sun., Oct. 18–19 at 5, 7 & 9 pm
  • Mon.–Thurs., Oct. 20–23 at 7 & 9 pm
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$9 general admission

FREE for Facets Members

The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation