Review of Nick Cave’s concert film This Much I Know to Be True

“I know this much to be true”

“I took government advice to… what the hell do you call it? Retrain!” Nick Cave begins in the opening verse of I know this much to be true. He says it in the manner of a man who has no choice but to follow the whims of his quick-tempered creative muse. He subconsciously smiles at “retraining” as a foreign word. “I retrained as a ceramist because it no longer pays to be a musician, an itinerant artist.” Ironic aside and showing the sheer breadth of his creative output, this apt statement of the times is a sign of the wisdom behind it all , which Cave wants to share with us.

Once the main hellraiser of pariah rockers The Birthday Party with a howl that could unnerve werewolves and fantastic hair a borrower could surf, he now takes the role of a poetic preacher of spiritual solemnity with the same unfettered air. It may be a form that unfortunate fate has brought him into, but it is one that he fills with holy grace for the sake of us all.

One of the mediums beyond music through which this has manifested for many fans is The Red Hand Files, Caves online question and answer forum. For some, it’s just a gift to your inbox when a new piece of wisdom and wit lands your way each week, but for those who ask questions, it’s an outlet — that’s the notion that describes what Nick Cave is made of became a musician. When you need urgent advice, want to voice grievances, or express your grief, you don’t usually turn to a shaky rock ‘n’ roll star.

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Cave has transcended that lofty pole, though, but not in the typically idolized way, towering over us in awe like a virtuoso reaching the rafters with a solo in a concert. Rather, he eschewed that sense of fame in order to belong among his fans and connect with them through empathy. That’s what the modern rock star can be, and apart from the film’s soaring musical moments, the humble segment in which he describes the aunt’s agonizing process is one of the most stirring in the entire film.

And it’s also the moment that makes it so difficult to review as a work, or rather, makes it seem superfluous. As fans, we will all have our own personal endorsements from the film that go far beyond the content itself. That’s because the art offered by Cave has become such a transcendent force that it’s almost a cornerstone of our lives. There’s so much meaning amidst the chaotic film that that seems to be the point of its mixed synopsis – you’ll find your own story in it. This is what Cave is pretty much acknowledging in a meta-sense when he says that there is always purpose in human beings—that purpose is imperishable.

Cave finds much of that importance in his friend Warren Ellis. For Cave and Ellis, those jubilant moments are captured in the amber of their collaboration. As they say, there are “transcendent moments” when they talk about their working process […] but they’re just snippets in a sea of ​​bullshit.” The film gives you glimpses of the sea, but thankfully never so much as to wade through bullshit, allowing you to bask in the beautiful rhapsody of their stunningly shot performances (it unless you hate strobing).

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These songs are interspersed with snippets of conversations with Cave and Ellis. There are moments of lightness, depth and realignment everywhere. There are also moments of naturalistic subtlety that prove as revealing as the large segments in between – small, barely noticeable moments like Ellis helping Marianne Faithfull into her chair. These all come together in stunning style, but it’s really what you take away from it on a personal level that gives weight to this humble project.

The premise is said to be: “Shot on location in London & Brighton, Andrew Dominik’s new feature documentary captures the extraordinary creative relationship between Nick Cave and Warren Ellis as they bring the songs from their last two studio albums to life. ghosts (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds) and carnage (Nick Cave & Warren Ellis).” But that’s only the surface of things, there’s a wealth of human experience beneath the welter.

The film premieres tonight with an extended worldwide release. Visit for more details.

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