“He always fought against everything he wanted.”
Jenny Cobain’s tearful explanation of her stepson Kurt quietly, yet evocatively lingers throughout the entirety of Cobain: Montage of Heck, the first authorised documentary about Kurt Cobain made twenty one years after he took his own life. Named after a mixtape recorded by Cobain around 1988, the film is 132 minutes worth of intense backlogging via the kaleidoscopic down spiral of the Nirvana frontman. Shunning the common misconception of the film being an inside/out biography of the band; the piece instead explores an artistic, sensual mind sweep into the psyche of a tragically gifted, lost boy.
From Academy Award winner, Brett Morgen, the documentary leaves a bittersweet, loud, convulsive aftertaste to all senses involved. Morgan draws upon Kurt’s scratched out scribbles and satanic poetry to resurrect his tormented and tortured soul, whilst the animations narrated by haunting recordings of Kurt performing mundane mantras at home alone is eerily transfixing. This is where the film’s art lies. In the first quarter, Morgen grants you access as a bystander into Kurt’s life through an alternate reality. Combining this with rare live footage and family interviews, Montage of Heck gives viewers a well-rounded, three dimensional representation of one of music’s greatest influences not just as a musical hero but as a son, husband and father.
Morgen forces the viewer through real footage of angelic, Aryan Kurt starring through his toy guitar on his first birthday, slugging into his depressive teenage years as he’s passed from one to divorced parent to another, then the three main stages of his later life: Nirvana, Courtney and Frances. Emotionally, it is neither soft nor comfortable viewing. Whilst the footage of Kurt in the bath with four month old daughter Frances exposes complete beauty in a world of private agony, it’s tragically countered against the sores and rashes from drug use on the musician’s painfully skinny body. A man too afraid of humiliation and too opposed to fame, the exhalation of Kurt’s decline and imminent death appears tragically steady, yet always there.
Produced by Frances Bean Cobain, the film banishes particular myths and exposes the man behind the idol. Unnervingly intimate and creatively diverse, ‘Montage of Heck’ is radical and absolute in the forefront telling of Kurt Cobain’s legacy. Genuinely surpassing within the music documentary genre, this film deserves to be adored, studied and talked about for as long as Kurt’s influence does.
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