SXSW 2022: Everything I know to be true

what i know to be true (2021 | United Kingdom | 108 mins | Andrew Dominik)

“Thank you for the words, the music, the sanity your words bring me in times of conflict. I’m curious, behind it all: the music, the words, the costumes, the grief, the tenderness, and the shame, and guilt, and joy, who are you?

Nick Cave, in his typical dark and reflective state of mind, reads this quote from one of twelve fan letters he has culled from the volumes of notes, communications and emails he receives every day. It’s a nice set up for the new documentary/music video/love fest what i know to be true. The film tries to answer that, even if it only uncovers a snippet of what makes up this mystical creature we’ve come to know and love over a nearly fifty-year career in music and movies. arts. Director Andrew Dominik walks through the life and times of Cave during the pandemic and gives us a kind of extended gig as he and Warren Ellis perform their latest upcoming release. CARNAGE.

Undoubtedly this film follows his 2016 Once again with feeling. On the one hand he uses the same director, on the other hand the set in which he makes these live recordings looks almost identical with a penetrated fourth wall where we see the crew filming and extras walking around behind -plan. Maybe it’s an intro letting us know that every few years he’ll make a full-fledged movie just to arrange an album release. Or, perhaps these films are a catharsis, with the previous film coming only a year after the death of his fifteen-year-old son Arthur. Once again with feeling was a reaction to that, an outpouring of emotion and music that I can only hope led to a release from the pain and allowed him to find a way forward.

This new on-screen adventure, however, seems to be much more uplifting, with a sense of excitement, anticipation and, dare I say it, hope for what’s to come. He shows us around his statuary workshop in place since the beginning of the lockdown. He built a world of ceramic figurines and small religious scenes in what he called his “mania for making things” in an interview with Interview Magazine at the start of the pandemic. It seems oddly fitting for him to take on this new calling given his well-known penchant for the religious, but still express his darker punk side through delightful depictions of the devil.

Nick in his studio, photo courtesy of Nick Cave

The dynamic duo of Cave and Ellis have been band members and collaborators for nearly ages, but CARNAGE marks their first as a duo in both performance and creation. This film captures the energy of their live performance as Cave slides his hands up and down the piano, spins on the floor, raises his arms like a ballerina and sings into his retro-style microphone again; all the while, Ellis sits quietly, creating the atmosphere in which his partner comes to life. Interestingly, the only real change from Andrew Dominik’s Once again was where they were performing (both were in London but the first was at Air Studios, and this new installment is at the Battersea Arts Centre). The Battersea Great Hall with its worn brick walls and towering ceiling is a nice change of scenery that gives texture not just to the stage but to the performance itself. If you liked the pic from 2016, you’ll love this one. I don’t think I will ever be disappointed by the opportunity to see Nick Cave perform.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

what i know to be true premiering in person March 11 and virtually March 13 at SXSW Film 2022. Be sure to check out all the 2022 Sunbreak SXSW coverage

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