Film Review – Cobain: Montage Of Heck
Kurt Cobain fans, brace yourselves. The tragic tale of the Nirvana frontman has been romanticised to the point where future civilisations may think he was indeed a God that ruled the world with a flannel shirt and a distortion pedal. Cobain: Montage Of Heck, however, humanises its subject to an almost cringe-worthy level. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just so intimate that you’ll almost feel bad for watching.
Director Brett Morgan unearths a wealth of never-before-seen diary entries, recordings and artwork, interweaving them with interviews with family and friends, making for a vibrant and chilling documentary. Cobain’s impressive artwork is animated and brought to life, as are accounts from his diaries, eerily retracing the steps of his isolated and awkward youth. This technique works flawlessly and rather than interrupting the flow of the film like so many reenactments do, it seriously enhances your understanding of the workings of a twisted young mind.
An unflinching portrait of a talented oddball, it puts forward the notion that this was not a world-beating genius that one day fell from grace, but a guy who was never really comfortable in his own skin and the success he craved so much did little to change his outlook.
The constant self-loathing is hard to stomach but it really does showcase why he became such a relatable voice for a generation of lonesome youths. His early life mirrors such a common story: an ugly divorce, an awkward sexual awakening, a hearty distaste for the daily working grind and an unwavering dedication to a derided artistic pursuit.
There’s a Peter Pan-like quality to the myth of Kurt Cobain that still rings true in this documentary. He may have been 27 when he took his own life but it’s clear that he and his band were far from reaching any kind of true adult status. Comparing Krist Novoselic in interviews today with those shown from the height of Nirvana’s success is night and day. They were goofy kids, plain and simple. It’s likely the combination of art and fame served only to extend their chaotic youth, with obviously disastrous consequences.
Unlike many pieces on Nirvana, there’s no clear villains or heroes being called out along the way. While we might not be getting the complete story – the production was made with the full co-operation of Courtney Love and his family – Cobain: Montage Of Heck does present a truly well-rounded portrayal of its protagonist on the big screen, perhaps for the very first time. For that reason we’re comfortable calling this the definitive take on Cobain (rather than Nirvana).
If you ever wanted to know what it was like to hang out next to Kurt Cobain on the couch, this is your opportunity. We just can’t promise you’ll be making a repeat visit.
Montage Of Heck is out now through Universal.