Nick Cave may be best known as a singer-songwriter, but he is no stranger to film. He and his band, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, have written original music for 18 feature films and have now released a visual album of their own, directed by Andrew Dominik, the mind behind many of the films Cave has written music for. As the film’s website reports, One More Time With Feeling is “filmed in black-and-white and colour, in both 3D and 2D, the result is stark, fragile and raw.” The film was shown in cinemas, including the Circle Cinema here in Tulsa, for one night only: the night before the release of the band’s coupling album, Skeleton Tree.
The spinning black and white visuals, conversational musings from band members, and hypnotic music made for a haunting experience. Scenes were split evenly between recording sessions, car-ride interviews with Nick Cave, and camera wanderings around he and his wife’s home. Cave spoke as the narrator for both the film and for his own mind, and recited his writing aloud while the 3D camera created captivating tours of the set. The musician spoke of time feeling “elastic” and the film felt that way too, with the camera wandering around to different people and places, but always being pulled back to Cave.
I was quickly sent almost into a trance every time the camera focused on a band member singing or improvising on an instrument, and just as quickly pulled out of it, when the set would change suddenly to a quiet and meandering Cave, musing aloud on subjects like romantic love, imagination, time, and traumatic experiences. The distinct silence in the spaces between Cave’s words left the viewer lingering, while the smoothness and nakedness of the jam sessions enraptured the viewer completely.
It played out very much like an album, rather than a traditional cinematic film, but it also felt much like a poetry reading. I was reminded of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road when Cave would recite lines over the roaming camerawork. The adoption of a documentary-style plot made for refreshing deliveries of dramatic speaking scenes that sounded more like intimate musings than scripted lines.
Through the ever-exploring camerawork, we get a look into the personalities and relationships of the other band members, but mostly through the eyes and words of Cave. Everyone in the studio seemed to be traveling through the same trance the viewer was, casually exchanging bits of music and conversation with the usually-somber narrator. The viewer sees not only inside the new album released Friday, but into Cave’s family and personal tragedies as well. The culmination of songs and raw interviews results in a searing glimpse inside the workings of a musician’s mind and how those workings translate into music sold to the masses. Audibly hypnotic and visually beautiful, the film casts a hopeful forecast on the world of visual albums.