There is more paradise in hell than we’ve been told — Nick Cave, speaking in One More Time With Feeling
Grief is the only real chasm. Those who live on the wrong side of it can spot their kin immediately. The language of innocence deferred casts a long shadow from every angle, it speaks even in silence. Living with loss forces you across the chasm, there is no choice involved, and in the midst there seems to be little difference between the long fall and landing. Recklessness is the easiest darkness to shoulder after intimate loss, but there is a difference between free-fall and jumbled heap. There is a way to return to careful, gentle affection.
One More Time With Feeling, a documentary by New Zealand director Andrew Dominik about Nick Cave in the wake of losing his fifteen-year-old son Arthur articulates the weight of going through the motions while coping with death. Cave was already in the process of completing this year’s spectral, sixteenth record with The Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree, when his teenage son fell to his death. The decision to continue with the work moved from necessary expression to urgent distraction — a reason to get up each day.
“When a kid dies, it really puts everything else into perspective,” Dominik said by phone last week, in an interview about the movie. “Films don’t seem that important, records don’t seem that important. No one was thinking. I wasn’t looking at it from a career perspective or an opportunity. I made this film without any of the usual kind of guarantees that I like I going into a movie. I knew that my feelings were not paramount, Nick’s feelings would be paramount. If there was a disagreement, I would just lay down and let him have what he wanted. Because he was in pain, basically. I never considered saying no. But it wasn’t like making a film.”
Grief is a force of separation, not just from the person you love(d), but from the other people who surround you. Your own grief — this one, mine — feels so specific, so unthinkable, it seems no suffering could be more acute than yours. That is the selfish suck of grief; it’s a brute force of mercenary blindness. Why shouldn’t it be? There is nothing more primal than unprovoked, unexpected loss. Perhaps it is the one thing we can’t evolve away from. Wild grief ruins imagination like a bully kicking in a sandcastle. A worthy act of retaliation is creating something beautiful, anyway, even with the sense that it could be lost or belittled just as easily.