Friday, August 15

20,000 Days On Earth at Somerset House

On Wednesday night my dinner was a much-too-small picnic set out on a thick red blanket in the grounds of Somerset House. I shovelled a Pret sandwich into my mouth and slurped tins of G&T whilst patiently waiting for the UK premier of 20,000 Days on Earth, the long awaited and characteristically unorthodox Nick Cave documentary.

We were unprepared, with a picnic blanket, miserly measures of gin and a teeny selection of snacks. Others put us to shame with fur rugs, antipasti, plump cushions and takeaway pizzas. But despite our slim pickings, sitting down to a picnic tea with hundreds of strangers in the courtyard of Somerset house was pretty pleasant. The only thing that was missing was a bucket of popcorn; although there was popcorn flavoured ice cream on offer, which no one seemed too tempted by in the icy evening air. 

Now in its 10th year, the Film4 Summer Screen is celebrating cinema in the open-air with a special anniversary season of contemporary, classic, cult and brand new films at Somerset House. This year's titles range from a double bill of Hairspray and Springbreakers to Annie Hall and Mad Max 2, but we settled on the would-be rockumentary 20,000 Days on Earth. Once you get into the grounds you aren't allowed re-entry, so with a few hours to kill before the film kicked off we occupied ourselves with a walk around the Summer Screen Prints exhibition in the west wing. 

This is the second year of the Print Club London curated film poster exhibition, which showcases a diverse selection of contemporary posters from films at the Summer Screen. The 16 prints have been reimagined by an assortment of artists - including Kate Moross, Kate Gibb and Steve Wilson - whom bring a fresh look to each title. All of the limited edition posters can be bought in the west wing for £45, but I chose a £2 postcard instead. Time in the courtyard passed quickly and before long it was time to get comfortable as the film was announced. 

20,000 Days on Earth is a dramatized documentary, spanning a fictitious 24 hours in the life of the musician, songwriter, author, screenwriter, composer and actor Nick Cave. Co-written and directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, whom gave a heartfelt introduction to the UK premier, the script was also co-written by Nick Cave. The film premiered at Sundance 2014 where it was awarded directing and editing awards, and will be released worldwide later this year. 

The film follows Cave through an imagined day during the recording of Push the Sky Away, cut with live performances and dinnertime chats with Warren Ellis. With frank, personal insights and a glimpse into Cave's artistic process, the film discusses what makes us who we are, and celebrates the transformative power of creativity and performance. Cave is serious while being silly, philosophical yet blunt and unpretentious. Unlikely but wonderful cameos are provided by Ray Winston and Kylie Minogue, whom reflect on Cave's presence as a performer and question his semblance as a rock icon. The film is intimate and insightful, leaving viewers feeling excited, chosen and a little more enamoured with Nick.


  1. Thanks for the review! I can't wait to FINALLY see it next month at the Barbican!

  2. Great review! Sounds fantastic! Wish I got tickets