Kurt Cobain is an icon of the ’90s. The Nirvana frontman’s music lives on… long after his alleged suicide, perpetuated by a strong cult following, conspiracy theories and his enigmatic spirit. Montage of Heck is a documentary that assimilates Cobain’s art, writing, vocal recordings and home videos into a raw, honest and intimate biographical music film.
Writer-director, Brett Morgen, was fascinated with Pink Floyd’s film, The Wall, which blended animation, symbolism and their music into a haunting story and cinema experience. He watched it many times and was influenced by the eclectic nature of their surreal pop culture offering when he approached Montage of Heck. The film was commissioned by Courtney Love, who gave Morgen unprecedented access to Cobain’s personal archive.
In his initial investigation, Morgen uncovered a mix tape called Montage of Heck, which included some spooky sci-fi and old horror movies interludes amid underground alternative music of the time. This together with The Wall, gave Morgen the blueprint for Montage of Heck, a bewildering and maddeningly brilliant bio documentary and testament to the life and times of Kurt Cobain.
We’re introduced to a young Cobain in a series of childhood photos and videos, which are laced together by renditions of Nirvana’s music and complemented by friends and family interviews. Morgen is trying to get into Kurt’s head, prying open the trunk of trinkets and giving the audience a deeply personal and increasingly paranoid peephole into Cobain’s head.
“Montage of Quik, anyone?”
His scrawlings are splashed across the screen as if he were composing them out loud, his artwork is animated to bring his thought life onto the celluloid canvas, his tape recordings echo his voice and his teenage misadventures are re-imagined in moody animation.
It’s an intense experience, discovering Cobain’s humble beginnings and journeying with him as he channels his artistic temperament into musical genius. He was largely misunderstood, enigmatic and paradoxical… becoming an overnight success story with Nirvana after being a social misfit and leech for most of his young adult life.
It’s a hazy, mesmerising journey through one tormented man’s biography. He’s portrayed as a degenerate youth turned cult icon and we’re given an intimate, honest and drug-infused throwback to his heydays. At over 2 hours, this barrage of intimate love and self-loathing is decidedly long… and often disturbing even. Morgen shys away from speculation surrounding his death but brings Cobain’s secret life to light in this kaleidoscopic documentary.
For fans of Nirvana, it’s a must-see, delivering a double dose of candid honesty, relayed by mixed media and music in an atmosphere ripe with emotion. For bystanders, it’s still a fascinating and harrowing downward spiral into a suspended state of lunacy where moments of extreme hate and love co-exist. From the loud, eerie opening credit rumble to the rather abrupt ending… it’s a unique fly-on-the-wall experience that can be enjoyed by friends and enemies of alternative music and lifestyles.
The bottom line: Maddening
Now available to rent
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