One More Time With Feeling is Andrew Dominik’s exquisite new documentary chronicling the writing and recording of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ sixteenth studio album, Skeleton Tree. It also takes a look beneath the surface of the richly-textured and mournful tapestry which makes up the private world of Nick Cave and his wife Susie, following the death of their son Arthur Cave in July 2015. Shot entirely in 3D, this was a viewing experience like no other, and one I hadn’t anticipated falling in love with to this extent. Upon entering last night’s premiere I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I cannot claim to be anything more than a passive Bad Seeds fan, so outside of a performance of the new album, I had no preconceived ideas of what the film would entail.
I was met with a beautiful, nuanced insight into grief that I could scarcely have imagined. The film is shot in an inventive and exploratory way, with the 3D that I was initially skeptical about enhancing the immersive feel hugely, making for an intensely hypnotic experience. The film features performances of every track on Skeleton Tree in turn, with the large studio space and culmination of layered instruments and vocals adding to the grandeur of the music; a sublime introduction to this new record.
The film takes a look at Cave both in and out of the studio, with gloriously intimate sections peering into his home life, including Susie Cave’s work in fashion design, and their strong bond with son Earl. It is so clear to see the strength of the connection which exists between the couple, most notably in Cave’s wonderful and lengthy discussion of his wife and her ‘all her many facets’. Indeed, even his narration of the film mirrors the style of his lyrics, consistently poetic, enigmatic and, at times, heartbreaking, emitting a sense of weight and gravity which was carried throughout the film and long after the credits rolled. Despite the morose style and dark subject matter however, very little is explicitly mentioned. Of course, anyone with prior knowledge of the traumatic events which shook Cave’s life will enter the film being able to detect and appreciate the pain with which this album was recorded, but his words leave a lot to the imagination, often arbitrary and delivered abstractly and disjointedly. This had the most instrumental part to play in the poignancy of the documentary, with Cave offering up nihilistic perspectives on the world, the self, art and time. I took a great deal away from this film, despite never having experienced anything close to the level of grief and suffering Nick Cave and his family have been dealt.
Visually and emotionally intoxicating, Andrew Dominik’s exploration into Skeleton Tree and its painstaking production process is a truly innovative accomplishment and one of the finest films I have seen so far in 2016. For those who are merely casual Bad Seeds fans, or not at all, or those who have been following Nick Cave and co. along their entire musical journey, One More Time With Feeling is simply unmissable, setting the standard for music documentaries at a new high.