The Road to God knows where

TITELfoto.tiff
Germany 1990, 16mm, s/w, 89min

FESTIVALS: Melbourne, Copenhagen, New York, Montreal, Manchester, Barcelona

Nick Cave: “This film is beautiful, because it’s so sad. And that is true.”

What can one say of a documentary, that the documentary, by definition, doesn’t say for itself? The answer to this question could be found in those events which either surprise by their presence or confuse by their absence – a confounding of expectations. But would this not simply de-mystifying what is the essence of the art?

With “The Road to God knows where” german director Uli M Schueppel set out on a five week odyssey of the USA with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds with never a thought of making just an income generating, concert video, side-order to the groups recording career. Schueppel was primarily interested in the six personalities involved (knowing, as he4 did, all of them personally) and in studying these individuals and the environment in which they often find themselves together.

What he expected was not exactly what he got, but what he got was just what he wanted. The result is a far cry from the usual rock’n roll lifestyle cliches and slick life productions of the average music biz “film”.

Armed with only one 16mm-camera and an assistant with cassette machine, Schueppel offers up a disarmingly frank and intimate look at these characters and their “behavioural sink”. That it will confound people’s expectations of them is without question – Truth is stranger than Fiction.

We may well ask, where “The Road to God knows where” takes us and of course the answer is the question. We are all on the road to God knows where, so hitch a ride with Cave & Company for a leg of the journey and experience what would otherwise be a vehicle speeding by you on your long hike to oblivion.

The full fim credits as they appear at the end of the picture can be found HERE.

Readers & writers of the american TOTAL FILM MAGAZINE (May08) voted THE ROAD, To God Knows Where “in the 20 best band films of all time”.

“Uli M Schueppel was still a student at the Berlin Film Academy when he conceived this project – the documentation of a Noth American tour by cult figure Nick Cave and his band of underground legends The Bad Seeds. Schueppel’s plan was to record the routines behind the glamour – the 23 hours of the day, when the band is not pölaying – that makes up the daily scheduleof a touring performer. Schueppel goes out of his way to avoid making a “concert film”, while allowing just enough snippets of the band’s live performances to filter through, so as to give even the uninformed viewer a sense of The Bad Seeds work. Using just a two-person crew, the director has been able to infiltrate every imaginable moment of the band’s days (and nights) without ist presence obstructing the action. The result of this approach is the gradual demystification of the celebrity lifestyle that other media (and the stars) usually perpetuate. Yet just as these details accumulate and are transformed into mundane daily ritual for the performers, so too does the process become ever more fascinating for the viewer. THE ROAD… is a voyeur’s delight, packed with incidental detail and absurd fleeting moments to treasure, as these glum ministrels head on down the road, to god knows where.”

(Melbourne Filmfestival, 1990)

Press Quotes

“Rockn’roll life on the road has rarely been so accurately documented as this. Yet, despite the noblest efforts of director Uli M Schueppel to demystify the process, Cave and the chaps just can’t help being glamorous. THE ROAD… is classic cinema verite, a tremendously evocative documentary for anyone who’s ever been involved either on the fringes or in the heart. … this hyper-grainy b&w film is a lovingly detached testament to the absurdity of the ritual.”

Melody Maker (Nov 90)

“A portrait of Nick Cave and his band in gorgeous black and white – with the feel of a road movie. Director and cameraman Uli M Schueppel is a longtime friend of the musician, probably only a friend could posses such a great sensitivity and fine touch. THE ROAD is one of the few ‘music films’ that is nit only worth seeing for fans, but, like Godards ‘One Plus One’, is also for film buffs.”

Journal Frankfurt (12/90)

“What is life? A street, a journey, work, reality, myth. And what can be life, reality in film? It’s about everyday things. Nothing is stressed, emphasised, each action is part of a whole, of the same importance as the ‘empty’ moments. Part of the atmosphere. That’s what makes THE ROAD… a film in which one is so naturally at home.”

Der Tagesspiegel (12.5.1990)

“This quiet, melancholy film reveals through its poetic imagery more about Nick Cave’s personality than the longest interview.”

taz (21.5.1990)

“THE ROAD… is a documentary film that truly earns this appelation.”

TIP (11/90)

(…) Herausgekommen ist dabei ein sehr ruhiger, trister, ernster Schwarzweiß-Film, der nichts mit den üblichen bunten, schnell geschnittenen Konzertfilmen a la ‘Talking Heads’ gemeinsam hat.
Uli M Schueppel fängt ganz wunderschöne poetische Momente ein: (…) ‘The Road…’ stellt keinen herkömmlichen Musikfilm dar, der Mythos Rock n’ Roll (…) findet nicht statt. Die Produktion ist eher ein subtiles Portrait einer zerbrechlichen Persönlichkeit und einer erwachsenen Band.

Film-Echo Filmwoche, B. Herdlitschke, Nr.21/90

“The film captures beautiful poetic moments. THE ROAD… is the subtle portrait of a fragile personality and a growing band.”

Film-Echo/Filmwoche (No21/90)