With most music documentaries the degree to which you enjoy the film will largely depend on how much you appreciate the work of the subject, above all other factors. I suppose that despite this film’s fascinating insight into mourning, trauma and grief, and how it can all feed into the creative process, that has to be the case here, too. Made by the excellent Australian director Andrew Dominik, One More Time With Feeling is the second film to feature Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in two years, and the band’s music features prominently via several live studio takes of songs from Cave and co’s latest album, Skeleton Tree. This record, infamously, was already being recorded when Cave and his wife Susie tragically lost their 15-year-old son Arthur, who fell from a cliff near their home in Brighton (Arthur appeared briefly in the earlier Bad Seeds documentary 20,000 Days On Earth).
Cave subsequently re-wrote some of the album’s lyrics and re-recorded some of the songs; we see black and white footage of these sessions here, Dominik’s camera dollying around the musicians while they play, and there are also extensive interviews with the Caves as well as briefer ones with Warren Ellis, who has gradually emerged as the singer’s most important writing and recording partner during the past 15 years or so. It’s an intimate, reflective and extremely sad film, as you would expect, but also one depicting people who are trying to make sense of their lives amid all the sorrow, and to move on and carry on with their work, as it is the only thing that can help them to remain on even keels. Cave’s analogy of feeling like he is tied to Arthur’s death by way of an elastic band, able to move away but always eventually being snapped back to the trauma, is just one illuminating moment, but at times I wondered whether I should have the right to peer in on someone’s life in this way, particularly when such a devastating event is clearly so raw for all involved. It is, though, as sensitive a film as you could hope for, and the music that has come out of all of this, in my opinion, is magnificent. (****½)