By: Addison Wylie
Many associate angst with Kurt Cobain. The feeling is riddled throughout his musical work and how he presented Nirvana to the world. With Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, documentarian Brett Morgen (The Kid Stays in the Picture) has peeled back the musician’s enigmatic career to find the origin behind his hurt and disassociation.
Cobain is respectfully represented as someone who was robbed out of an upbringing he wished he had growing up in clean-cut Aberdeen, Washington. Kurt’s hyperactive imagination and his inability to rest unnerved people, and loved ones found themselves distancing themselves from Kurt. The disillusion of “the perfect family” tore into Cobain’s teenage years and influenced many of Nirvana’s songs. However, this resentment was interpreted by Generation X in personal ways, causing the band’s popularity to explode and unexpectedly promoted Cobain to a prominent voice in 90’s culture.
Nirvana’s success is secondary in Morgen’s film, however. The filmmaker is much more interested in providing a visceral experience for movie goers. Through various formats (talking head interviews, concert footage, journal entries, personal drawings, and what appears to be rotoscope animation), Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck sensationally illustrates the emotional trauma and sensitivity of its subject. Audiences are able to identify with Cobain as a child and travel with him through his mainstream success; eventually facing his addiction to heroin and his newfound epiphanies as a father.
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is an epic documentary that takes viewers from life to death. It’s marvelous to watch as well as heartbreaking.
Cineplex’s Music at the Movies series premieres with Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck on Monday, May 4 at select theatres. An encore presentation screens on Thursday, May 7.
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck hits Toronto’s Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on May 15.