Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck – insightful yet hauntingly depressing

Posted on 14 September 2015
By James Burcher
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I write this review whilst listening to In Utero, an album used heavily in this movie.

It speaks of a man who’s tortured soul is laid bare for all to see, by his friends and family. This is a film that will stay with you, and make you appreciate the music so much more. They may only have made 3 studio albums, but Nirvana had such a fundamental impact on popular music in the 90s, you sometimes don’t even realise until it comes into full focus like this.

Despite the lack of a talking head Dave Grohl, this is a deeply touching and intimate look at the so called ‘spokesman for Generation X.’ It’s difficult where to begin with this film, there is so much to discuss from his childhood in Aberdeen and growing up amongst divorced parents and his growth from underground Grunge band to one of the biggest rockstars on the planet, it’s so neatly covered that it can feel as if you’ve just experienced the full 27 years of Cobain yourself, especially at a running time of 132 minutes.

The animations put together with the recordings are beautifully done, something Kurt himself would I’m sure approve of. Perhaps the out-of-order usage of these recordings might have stirred up some provocation but they’re so wonderfully done and put together than you may be able to forgive it, especially when you consider that you don’t really see Cobain develop as a musician, he just sort of… Is one from the beginning.

The only hint we get is that he likes to play the guitar and he develops this, as he gets older, that’s it.

The home videos of him and Courtney Love post-Nevermind are disturbingly insightful. I’d even go as far to say these are even more gruesome than some horror films. To see these people on as much heroin as they were, and their apartment in such a state as it was is genuinely upsetting. With Love having a baby on the way (who would go on the help produce this film) and Cobain having the world at his feet, to see them in this state is borderline depressing when you remember this is not fiction, this is real footage, of real people.

Once Frances Cobain is born, the documentary shifts in tone slightly, it is noticeable but still has an air of depression about it. You do feel as if you’re waiting for the inevitable message to appear about how he took his own life at 27, yet it doesn’t appear until the final few seconds of the film, glossing over it quite nicely, giving more focus to his actual life, rather than his tragic death.

There’s just more and more footage of him with his baby, Courtney and family, and near the end, the haunting acoustic performance of ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’ From the ‘Unplugged in New York set.’

This is a documentary about the man, not the music make no question. Whilst it features heavily of course, it sits comfortably in the background whilst we get a peak into the brain of Kurt Cobain. At times you do find yourself thinking that this man may have genuinely been insane as you watch the home video footage, whether he was just knocked up on silly amounts of drugs or not, but the scrawling’s and the lyrics speak for themselves. It’s a truly haunting but beautiful montage of a painful treck through one man’s life.