Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck – Movie Review

First Published April 2015 on No More Workhorse

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Kurt Cobain

Director: Brett Morgen
Writer: Brett Morgen
Stars: Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Courtney Love

Twenty one years on from when Kurt Cobain took his own life, Montage of Heck, the first authorised documentary of Cobain is released. Produced by his wife Courtney Love and with daughter Francis Bean Cobain as executive producer, this documentary aims to go behind the legend to find Kurt Cobain the man.

Oscar nominated director Brett Morgen was given unlimited access to the Cobain archives; crafting this documentary out of animations and a wealth of previously unseen material, including clips from Cobain’s notebooks, drawings, video footage, audio tapes and audio diaries. He aims to tell the story as much from Cobain’s words as possible. The documentary opens with the voice of Kurt’s mother and proceeds to tell to story of his early life. Interviews with Cobain’s estranged parents and sister shine a light on this tumultuous period in his life and it becomes easy to see that the issues that led to his suicide were within him from a young age.

The journals and his own voice in particular give a revealing insight into Cobain’s youth and home life, which has often been shrouded in myth, legend and confusion – much of it stemming from the contradictory interviews given by Cobain himself. As the documentary progresses Morgen increasingly relies on home video footage and interviews to tell Cobain’s story; giving an unparalleled understanding into his life with his wife and daughter. One of the main attractions of Montage of Heck is that it includes new interviews with bassist Krist Novoselic. As he speaks it is obvious that it is difficult for him to revisit his friends passing but his memories and observations help to illuminate motivations that propelled his bandmate. The only thing missing is Dave Grohl, who has so far remained largely silent on the matter of his friend’s life and passing. Fans will still have to wait to hear his side of the story.

As Nirvana hit the big time with Nevermind they retreated from the limelight and Cobain built a family life. Much of the home video footage focuses on Cobain as a husband and father; the man he was away from the fame and media that tried to pin him as the voice of the disaffected youth. Music gave him a home in his youth but when that was infected by fame he retreated into his home life. However even that couldn’t remain free from trouble and scrutiny.

This is an absolute must see not just for fans but for anyone with an interest in how Nirvana and Cobain shaped the music and culture of the nineties; which lives on today in the music which is as fresh as when it was released.