Montage of Heck is the first authorised documentary about Kurt Cobain. Back in 2007 it was Courtney Love who approached director Brett Morgen with the idea of his making a documentary about Kurt. With access to unseen footage and journals, drawings and more, the film is part documentary and part music video.
When Brett Morgen met Kurt’s daughter Frances Bean Cobain, who is co-executive producer on the film, she said to him “Listen here’s the thing, everywhere I go in life, people are always saying you’re dad’s the greatest and he’s like Santa Claus.. Whatever you do, keep it real. Keep it honest. Let’s tell the truth. But use the art to tell the story.” and that’s exactly what Montage of Heck is, art.
The almost scrapbook style of the film reeks of the 90’s and I loved that, it all works. That said, While I liked the artistic vibe of the documentary I also found it a bit frustrating at times, I would have liked to have heard more from the people that knew him, I feel like more questions could have been asked of the people around him. This is the first film with interviews with Cobain’s parents, I was surprised there was so little from them.
Even though I found it a bit frustrating to watch at times, the animated parts of the film give the film its charm and helps it stand out from the crowd.
The film makes clever use of Nirvana songs, a lullaby style version of All Apologies plays over home movies of Cobain as a child and there’s plenty of live footage of Nirvana throughout. The only thing missing from the film is Dave Grohl. Much has been made of his absence but according to the director Grohl’s interviews were recorded too late to make the final cut but he’d like to see his footage added to the film at some point.
The home movies shot by Cobain and his wife Courtney Love offer a fascinating glimpse into their lives away from public scrutiny, their relationship is shown to be an honest one. They are unabashedly themselves and while many judged them as questionable parents, these videos show that their daughter Frances was very much the centre of their lives. The word family is used over and over again throughout the film and it’s obvious that family was really important to Kurt, especially after his parents divorced.
The film covers Kurt’s life right up to his death and while it’s easy for documentaries to get bogged down in the ghoulish details of a drug addicts life Montage of Heck doesn’t do that. It’s there and it’s discussed but it’s dealt with in a respectful manner that rock stars aren’t often afforded.
Montage of Heck is beng shown on HBO tonight (1st May) if you’re a fan of Nirvana this is a must see but even if you’re not a big fan this film is interesting enough to warrant a viewing. While the story is ultimately a dark one there are touches of humour running through the film and it’s never maudlin. It’s not your average documentary, it’s fresh and offers a look at a man who was an artist in every respect and gone too soon.