Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck does all of these and more in what will prove to be the definitive documentary on the tragic Nirvana front man. Director Brett Morgan (The Kid Stays in the Picture) was granted unprecedented footage by Cobain’s family including archives of home videos, journal entries and personal artwork by Cobain.
Morgan masterfully weaves together home video footage with Cobain’s own words and artwork to help give the audience a glimpse of what might have been going on in his head. What plays out is stunning animation mixed with the haunting sounds of Nirvana’s music, both original recordings as well as orchestral and choral reinterpretations.
The film is an extremely fitting tribute to the singer who took his own life in 1994. All the while remaining truthful to the controversial, objectionable circumstances Cobain shared with his wife, Courtney Love, especially during the birth of their child, Frances Bean Cobain.
The most effective device of this documentary was the stunning remastering of footage and behind the scenes tape they received of Cobain and Nirvana performing. Through the latest technology they were able to take footage recorded over 20 years ago, and make it look as if it were shot using the super-hi-definition cameras of today. Something that on paper might not read very impressive, but the sight of Cobain with arguably the most impactful band of the past 30 years brought to life in such clarity, it left me feeling haunted.
Seeing him so clear, as if he were alive last year makes his death even more tragic. The clarity of the footage destroys the gap of 20+ years and puts his words, his emotions, and his truths right before your eyes and you can’t help but be overcome by his life story.
It is hard to remember a documentary that was granted so much access to someone of such high-profile who was so reclusive. What results is two hours of never before seen discoveries and heartbreak. Perhaps the most fitting part of the documentary is how it handles his death, with a simple frame, taking no less than five seconds.
His death to this film is an afterthought. It’s not what Cobain’s life, message, or struggle was about. It was never about his death. Cobain was a symbol. A symbol of change, a symbol of being pissed off, a symbol of realizing you aren’t like them. And because we had a band like Nirvana and a man like Cobain, there is no reason to pretend.