Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck Review

Montage of Heck

Cover Photo Of Montage of Heck.

Montage of Heck Documentary Review

After a long desire, last night I finally watched the praised ‘definite’ documentary on the life of the most influential figure in the 90’s, Kurt Cobain. I need to clear out that I am a huge Nirvana fan and have been quite obsessed with the whole mystery surrounding the band’s success as well as Kurt’s death, on my freshman year in university. Therefore, this review is based on my views as a hardcore Nirvana fan.

First and foremost, I would like to point out the simplicity put in the direction of this film. In general, I find it well-crafted technically. As the title implies, Brett Morgen used a variety of Kurt’s private material with the intention to enrich the film and provide an insight on his creative world. Sketches, home videos, obscure recordings and diary entries that consult in the raw depiction of his sensitivity and emotional spirituality. I absolutely loved how his sketches would come to life out of the paper. Additionally, the animated parts of Kurt’s youth, added an aesthetically creative touch to the film. The parts I really enjoyed were definitely the abstract material in between; sketches, dolls, intestines, writings, etc all of which lead to the inner exploration of his artistic intelligence.

However, the documentary lacks in many levels. Although its start is very promising, by the half of it, it fails to provide with an objective truth about Kurt’s personality. The whole project narrates the story of a fragile kid from a problematic environment, who suddenly rose to fame and hated everything, apart from his own music. Chronicling his life, the added interviews by his closest environment, seem to encourage this image of a lost, sad soul, who was always living on the margins and whose end was actually not at all surprising. Often too generic, with a lack of controversy, their sayings portray Kurt as a sensitivity victim; hostile as a teen, a miserable, depressed and addicted person. I can’t of course know, since I have never met him, but this whole depiction seemed a bit ‘phony’. Furthermore, the absence of critical people in his life being interviewed, such as bandmates like Dave Crohl, Pat Smear, friends from other bands like REM, Mudhoney, producers, people he worked with or admired, leads to an one-sided portrayal of his story. It seems like parts of his life were intentionally (?) left out. What about the Bleach era? The drummer search? His relationship with Dave? Krist’s interview was merely limited just to confirm the above.

Concerning the sound of the film, in my opinion was unsatisfactory. First, the decibels of the interviews were incredibly low, while on the contrary the songs and recordings were too loud. I assume it was Mr. Morgen’s way of showing the antithesis of Kurt’s sensitive being to his powerful raw music. Another aspect was the actual selection of songs. Although I love (really LOVE) Nirvana music and I truly enjoyed the covers of Smells like Teen SpiritAll Apologies and this unreleased song, I admit I would like to be surprised by a different musical background: punk rock music and music from bands and musicians that really inspired Kurt; from Leadbelly to the Melvins.

What really talks to the heart of the audience, is the intimacy found between Kurt and Courtney. The raw footage of his family, including his daughter Frances, is really overwhelming. For me, it is the most innocent part of the film. Those painful smiles, the jokes and love; nothing suggests a depressed person, right? And did you happen to see any syringes anywhere around their house? No? Hmm. (Food for Thought). At this point, I don’t want to expatiate over Courtney and her actual effect on Kurt. I believe they were truly in love, but also had some troubles. – But then again all couples do. However, the whole ‘Kurt attempted suicide because he thought I cheated on him’ claim had a pretentious tone, as the Rome incident should have been a wakeup call for her.

As far as the documentary reaches the end, Kurt’s journals and newspaper highlighted passages, climax AGAIN over his disappointment, depression and addiction, only to lead to a cliché sudden ending, that left me wonder.

So was Montage of Heck worth watching? Yes, definitely. Undoubtedly, some parts of the raw footage and photographs that were not seen before, were great and gave an insightful glimpse on Kurt’s life. However, as a hardcore Nirvana & Kurt fan I have gone through all the published material, rare recordings and interviews over the years, so I could recognize most of the material used in the documentary. What I was expecting from this film was a true presentation of his personality and creativity; what about the different aspects of his art – the paintings, the crafts and the short films he made. His guitars, his plans after In Utero album, his death? . . .

Truth is after all this hype, I had high expectations of Montage of Heck and in the end I was disappointed. I was hoping it would clear up all those media bullshit stories and shed light on Kurt’s world, but instead it seems to continue the propaganda.

I am not going to score this film, since I am not a film critic; this review was just meant to be written by a huge Nirvana fan. Whether you are going to watch or not, is entirely up to you – however if you are a true Nirvana fan, don’t get your expectations high. After all, “There’s nothing to say, man. It’s all in the music”.

Till the next time,

“I miss the comfort in being sad”.



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