From the very opening moments, it’s clear that director Andrew Dominik will struggle with his interviewees when discussing the tragedy of Nick Cave’s personal life. An introduction from long-time collaborator and Bad Seeds instrumentalist Warren Ellis details his immediate discomfort at detailing the tragic death of Cave’s son, and the emotional state of his bandmate. He outright refuses to speak or speculate on the wellbeing of his friend, and it’s a consistency found within One More Time with Feeling, a film that documents the recording and producing process of their 2016 album Skeleton Tree. Many of the insights we get into this process, and Cave’s undertaking of grief come from the horse’s mouth in a contrite understanding of loss and grief.
Filmed entirely in black and white, it does add to the bleakness of the piece. It takes Dominik and his crew a bit of time to get to grips with their setup, asking Cave to redo a scene early on in the film, much to Cave’s annoyance. It seems the relatively fresh style of technology used here is, for better or worse, what keeps the documentary from pooling itself together quite as well as it should. You have Cave, his wife, his band and his sons all talking during the calm before the storm. Giddy with excitement at the prospective new album, washed with guilt after tragic circumstances lead them to revise their work thus far, cultivating it into a more personal piece of music.
Cave thrives when explaining his music, his narration and interviews here touch upon his creative process in such vivid, incredible detail. It seems he loves to be asked about the creative process of making an album, and has no trouble at all discussing his influences, those instrumental to his recording efforts, and where he gets his inspiration from. They make for refreshing discourse in a time where asking an artist of their impact and how they shape their music is somewhat taboo, audiences just accept that this is good or bad, and we need not question where their ability comes from or who gave them that jolt of artistic creation. Cave peels back the layers on his style and way of recording, and it’s remarkably in-depth. Paired with studio recordings of his Skeleton Tree work, we receive unprecedented access to the mind of a musical genius.
Similar to how Skeleton Tree showed a different, barebones side to Cave, One More Time with Feeling can pride itself on capturing a completely changed man, one battling with grief. Compared to 20,000 Days on Earth, Cave is far more exposed, it’s easier to see into his mind here. Annoyances occur with frequency, his patience seems to have snapped, and the grief, at times, looks to overwhelm him. We never get a moment that feels insulting or manipulative, though, many documentaries look for that angle. One More Time with Feeling presents a tasteful, engaging account of a man dealing with the grief and loss of a loved one, whilst also portraying such emotions in material he had written and recorded long before the tragedy that shook his way of viewing art.