Cobain: Montage of Heck

Cobain: Montage of Heck ★★★★

First, some pretext. Like many that grew up in the 90s, Nirvana holds a special place in my heart. I was 14 when i first heard Nevermind and its opening track, Smells Like Teen Spirit. Listening to it for the first time, it sounded so vital and felt so essential; it was a powerful experience.

Obviously, theres been other music i've loved since Nirvana but I don't think i'll ever have those feelings that i had for them replicated again. I was just the right age when it all kicked off and they were the first and only band i ever fully attached to, or i should say, obsessed over. Nirvana and particularly Kurt were so influential to me during my formative teenage years. They changed the music i would listen to through their influences and peers, inspired me to pick up a guitar and try my hand at making music and even influenced my thinking and views on various subjects.

When i heard of Kurt's suicide it had a profound effect on me; i felt so sad, perhaps, in hindsight, even depressed. However, the years have passed, 21 to precise (hell, thats scary!), life has moved on and my feelings diminished. At this point, theres little else to say on Nirvana that hasn't been said and the treasure trove has been well and truly ransacked with only the slimmest of pickings left. Kurt though, will always be an enigmatic figure. Despite his now familiar story, none have tried to get into his headspace like Montage of Heck.

It opens with home video footage of Kurt as a child. He looked so happy, blowing kisses to the camera, he reminded me of my own son. It looked to be the idyllic childhood and family unit that he would forever strive to regain. I have to say, i really felt quite emotional watching the footage, knowing how that innocence would be left behind and how it would all pan out.

While most of Kurt's story has been mined to death, using Kurt's own thoughts and words we do get more of an insight than we have ever got into the man himself. Morgen intercuts interview footage with animations from Kurt's drawings and music to tell his story. It really does feel like a creative and unique interpretation, rather than the talking heads and photographs it could have turned into. Though Grohl is a notable absentee, Morgen, wisely, keeps the interviewees to a close knit circle.

When it arrives at the point of recounting Nirvana hitting the big time, i was quite impressed with how Morgen managed to transition between the albums. It does, understandably, somewhat gloss over this period, though still feels like treading water and the runtime starts to become noticeable. However, what it did serve up (and throughout the film) was the raw power of Nirvana's music (the soundmix is superb).

Upon entering the final chapter, we see home video footage of Kurt and Courtney, which errs on being intrusive but Morgen doesn't hold back on showing the truth and we get to see behind the facade.

Montage of Heck is an intimate portrait of a tortured and conflicted soul, thats painfully truthful. Thrust into the spotlight from obscurity, Kurt was unable to deal with success and fame and yearned for that family unit he had been deprived off since his parent's divorce. As Krist mentions during his interview, its all there in his work for all to see. When he gained his own family and that was threatened, Kurt pushed the nuclear button. Whether you're a Nirvana fan or not, ultimately, its just such a sad and tragic story.

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