THIS MUCH I KNOW TO BE TRUE
(Check out Sammy Levine’s movie review for This Much I Know to Be True, the latest documentary from Andrew Dominik and Nick Cave. It’s streaming on Mubi starting July 8, 2022. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)
This Much I Know to Be True, Andrew Dominik and Nick Cave’s latest collaboration, is a gorgeous, moody, and, at times, hellish piece on Nick Cave’s (and Warren Ellis’) Ghosteen and Carnage album. It’s shadowy. It’s experimental. Magnetic and dark. Nick Cave, a slender, brooding and suited figure, evokes profound melancholy and grace through intricately staged performances. In This Much I Know to Be True, Cave’s unique mythmaking and ethereal musical universe is expanded upon by Dominik’s pristine craft, blocking, and colors.
Nick Cave, presently a ceramicist in order to make ends meet (at the recommendation of the government [or so he claims – very likely a Dylan-esque tongue in cheek joke]), has sculpted the story of The Devil in 18 complex and delicate figurines. The Devil, like all humans, leads a life of adventure, love, and remorse. The Devil as a baby, the Devil awakens. The Devil inherits the world as a boy. His first love, growing up and doing bold dangerous things. The Devil rides to war. He returns a hero and takes a wife. The Devil sacrifices his child. The Devil in remorse for his transgressions. The Devil has grown old with age – he bleeds to death. A child kneels at the Devil’s rotting body and presents his hand as a gesture of forgiveness… As the story concludes, we are slowly submerged into the orgiastic synths of Ghosteen’s harrowing opening track, “Spinning Song”, introducing the viewer to the musical performance component of This Much I Know to Be True.
The performances take place in a vacuous brick building re-fashioned as a recording studio. During “Spinning Song,” the camera revolves around Cave and Ellis as they man their respective instrumental stations. As we rotate, hovering about like ghastly figures, Caves’ religious and morbid lyrics begin to envelop us. His sorrowful words, at once terrifying and relatable, and his accompaniment’s divine arrangement invites us to his kingdom of sound. As the gate opens, we enter through his beautiful renditions of iconic tracks from his most recent LPs. We are flooded with a wave of synths, Cave’s baritone voice, church-like choirs, and piercing piano melodies. The lights come down and flash, emphasizing the silhouettes of our musicians. The camera tracks in and out; capturing the full scope of its bare-it-all emotional intimacy to its epically grand sonic proportions. With This Much I Know to Be True, Dominik, aided by DP Robbie Ryan and sound department, has captured Cave’s powerful singular essence.
Those familiar with Cave’s story and his particular morbid discography are sure to be enraptured by Dominik’s latest. Although, it doesn’t provide as much direct insight as One More Time with Feeling; it still does a compelling job in presenting Cave’s fragile psyche through his music and interests. As we journey through Cave’s grief (his son tragically died– inspiring much of his recent work), we are reminded the feeling of loss and sorrow can present us with one of reality’s sobering truths. We are not alone in our existential alienation; also, we don’t have to be. Ultimately, This Much I Know to Be True is a welcome addition to the varied and textured Nick Cave cannon. As Jonathan Demme and the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense once did for the live concert film; Dominik and Cave have radically reinvented the live music studio taping through their One More Time with Feeling and, again, now with This Much I Know to Be True.
– Samuel Levine (@thesammylevine)
Mubi; Trafalgar Releasing; Andrew Dominik; This Much I Know to Be True movie review