Review: Montage of Heck
The most intimate Kurt Cobain documentary ever made, Montage of Heck offers an all access pass into the artistic mind and private life of Kurt Cobain.
In the 8 years it took to make the movie director Brett Morgen was gifted an all access look into the Nirvana vaults, with Cobain’s wife Courtney Love and Daughter Frances Bean Cobain serving as producers Morgen had access to previously unseen footage, a chance to interview those closest to Kurt and to use an unreleased Nirvana song.
One of the movies many strengths is its animation. As well as cartoons of Kurt himself there are ones of his personal journals, showing the inner workings off his mind, his worries, his dreams, and scribbled song lyrics. This method makes it feel as though songs are written in front of you and show the moment when Nirvana was decided as the band’s name. Drawings from throughout his life come to life in a manner that perhaps even Kurt himself could never have imagined. The plethora of art that he produced throughout his life gifted Morgen the ability to create a more insightful documentary than he could have possibly hoped. Rather than simply telling the tale of a successful musician Montage of Heck leaves the audience feeling that they have met Kurt Cobain and further understand his inner workings.
Throughout the movie poignant moments include seeing Cobain as a toddler strumming a guitar, a moment that foreshadows how he would later leave his mark on the world. In his own voice there are also tales of alienation, pubescent sexual frustration, his earliest experimentations with drugs and touchingly, his love for his family.
Refreshingly it can be said that Brett Morgen’s documentary allows the audience a glimpse of the lighter side to the life of Kurt Cobain. His suicide ensured his battles with mental illness, and his spot in the absurdly romanticised “27 club” frequently overshadow his song-writing talent. His early death is not the focus of the film, and to its benefit. The tragedy has been discussed extensively and this film is something else.
Alongside the previously mentioned highlights there are obviously musical treats. As well as seeing footage of legendary gigs such as the Reading festival gig in 1992 or MTV Unplugged performance Nirvana fans will enjoy the chance to witness early demo versions of their hits, a Velvet Underground cover, and an early gig with an audience of only two people.