For some reason, an exceptionally high number of great, stunning documentaries have been made of Nick Cave’s career. This category also includes Mutiny in Heaven: The Birthday Party, which, as its title suggests, is focused on the career of Australian band The Birthday Party. It was Nick Cave’s band before The Bad Seeds.
The Birthday Party was an aggressive, rambunctious, and surprisingly literary underground band, which only existed for a few years at the end of the seventies and the start of the eighties. Still, its impact on a wide variety of particularly experimental no wave, punk, and goth music is notable.
The film features several clips of The Birthday Party’s impressive live shows. It seems like demonic powers have taken over the band members, making them twist around and wail onstage. Drug use and self-harm were on such high level that it is mind-blowing what big careers the members went onto have after the band broke up.
The life of an underground musician is not all that glamorous, and this side is also handled in the film. Between gigs, they sleep on friends’ couches, sometimes literally going hungry. Mutiny in Heaven shines both musically and visually. Old photos and videos are combined with animation and drawings, and old formats get to keep their grainy edge, as we dive into the underground scenes in Australia, the United States, London, and Berlin at the turn of the 70s and 80s.
Juhana Pettersson (translated by Inari Ylinen)
Content warning: flashing lights