Within the first few moments of One More Time with Feeling, I felt myself want to look at the friend who came with me to see it, and mouth the words “what’s happening?”, as we sat in the dark, watching Nick Cave uncomfortably follow direction from the filmmaker about re-doing a set-up shot and re-speaking words that were clearly difficult to get out in the first place, because they were working with fancy cameras no-one seemed entirely sure exactly how to use. It felt awkward because it was awkward – Cave was talking about his child’s death. Arthur, one of his twin sons, fell off a cliff in East Sussex in July 2015, after taking LSD for the first time.
The filmmaker – Andrew Dominik (who’s made noir-ish crime films like Killing Them Softly and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) clearly wanted the audience to go with the seemingly unvarnished start to the film – he is showing us he isn’t quite sure what was going to unfold, and neither are we, really. It represents something Cave says about the whole tragedy – that he hasn’t been able to distill it down into an easy-to-refer-to statement, a simple platitude, that he can pass on to others. “People say, ‘he lives in your heart,’ ” Cave says, in one interview scene. “Well, yes, he is in my heart,” he says. “But he doesn’t live.” It’s a moment so stark in truth it’s uncomfortable to hear.
In the same way, the documentary does not offer a simple trajectory about what happened, how it affected Cave and what we, as the audience and fans of his music, are meant to now know about the musician and his work. Through a series of black and white footage shot inside the studio and outside, in Brighton, and interviews with Cave in his home and in a cab, Dominik brings the different aspects of this time in Cave’s life, to us, to try experience how the work continued for him, as it had to. He literally works through this – both the literal sense of making the album and dealing with the grief and sadness of the ‘trauma,’ as Cave refers to it, in his journal-like entries and matter-of-fact answers to questions posed to him.
It’s haunting, sad, cathartic, beautiful, difficult, and ultimately a deeply moving way to experience Cave’s music. The music, the lyrics, wash over you in between the moments that Cave wanted to create as a way not to have to deal with questions from journalists while promoting the film. In the end, it’s a truly majestic accompaniment to the album. I urge you to seek it out – preferably with a great sound system so you can truly appreciate the music as it was created.