If there’s one music based feature-film to be released this year that just about everyone has been pulling their hair out for, it’s the one and only official Kurt Cobain documentary, Cobain: Montage of Heck, directed by Brett Morgen and co-produced by Cobain’s only daughter, 22-year old Frances Bean Cobain.
Set for a limited run in Australian cinemas beginning Thursday 7 May, we were granted an early screening of the 2-hour doco to which we can say with utmost confidence, it won’t leave a solitary viewer unsatisfied nor a tear-duct dry.
The story of Cobain’s short and music-defining life has been dissected one million times, whether it be through second-hand counts of fans, relatives, band-members, movie directors and one-sided documenters – however, none of these ever had the full access to the “Cobain vault”, an untouched treasure trove containing reels of home-footage, journal entries and unreleased music, all of which are in the possession of his wife, Courtney Love.
Brett Morgen is the first and only person who has been granted access to the uncovered, archived world of Cobain, and after meticulously siphoning through the history of the late grunge frontman, he has pieced together a beautiful and harrowing feature-film that focuses solely on the life and death of Kurt Cobain, as told by Kurt Cobain and his inner sanctum of family and friends.
Morgen stated in an interview, “from the moment Kurt Cobain burst onto the public scene with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ there’s been an absolute obsession, cultural obsession with Kurt” going on to claim that “fans never really knew Cobain” however “with Montage of Heck, audiences are going to meet Kurt Cobain for the very first time.” We’re very happy to say that Morgen is correct, this documentary properly introduces millions of people to a man they thought they already knew in an intimate and intense way.
With Cobain: Montage of Heck making its way to cinema screens in just under a month, we decided not to review the movie, but to piece together a list of things you can expect to see from the film – and don’t worry, this won’t serve as a spoiler, but a warm, exciting welcomer to what we’re touting to be one of the great music documentaries to be treasured over time.
So The Story Goes
The way Morgen & Co. detail Cobain’s life and times can perhaps only best be matched to the heart-breaking and torturing tale of Daniel Johnston through his epic, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, via the clever use of old film footage, voice recordings and artistic creations all coming to life to tell his story.
Outside of interviews from a handful of Cobain’s closest, the story of Kurt Cobain’s life is narrated by Kurt Cobain and when there’s only voice recordings, the crew have recreated scenes from Cobain’s life with beautiful animations, providing a both sound and vision to pivotal moments in the late singers life (spoiler: despite it being a cartoon, your heart will break as he helplessly leaves the infamous voicemail threat on Victoria Clark’s answering machine.)
This may seem uninviting at first, however it becomes wholly encompassing, and as Morgen promised – you’re living through Cobain’s experiences alongside him.
Kurdt Kobain – The Artist
There’s no need for us to harp on about Cobain’s artist flair. Since he was a child, Cobain had a penchant for not only music, but drawing and painting which has been immortalised in his journals.
Montage of Heck takes Cobain’s artistic expression to a whole new level, bringing to life his work in moving pictures, the pieces themselves playing an equal character role in the documentary, describing Cobain’s brutally honest and private emotions in a way that no recorded interview ever could.
Without access to Kurt Cobain’s drawings – Montage of Heck would be narratively and artistically incomplete – check out an impressive example below:
Exclusive Interview Footage
As Montage of Heck is the story of Kurt Cobain, told by Kurt Cobain, there are only supplementing interviews conducted by Morgen from a very select few that knew him best.
The film see’s a family members including his mother Wendy, father Don, sister Kim and step-mother Jenny Westeby fill the blanks of his younger life where archival footage can not, whilst original Nirvana bandmate and bassist Krist Novoselic takes the reigns of the Nirvana side of things and Courtney Love, rocking back and forth as she chain smokes, takes care of the tear-jerking Frances Bean home-movies.
Despite plenty of appearances from many others in Cobain’s life including Dave Grohl and his daughter Frances Bean, there are no new interviews of either of these two filmed specially for the documentary.
Do We Learn Anything New?
The 2-hour long film continues on its harrowing downward spiral, touching on the first reported time that Cobain had tried to commit suicide – the overdose in Rome, Italy, where Cobain had allegedly tried to take his own life with prescription drugs and alcohol.
Courtney Love, in attempts to appear stolid, tells the cameras between drags of a cigarette why Kurt first tried to kill himself because “I almost cheated on him.” Cobain, known for his obsession of having the perfect family of his own, was said to be driven to the brink of inconsolable insanity, the thought of being embarrassed and ridiculed in such a way lead him to take “67 rohypnol” tablets in bids to end his life.
Is There Unreleased Music?
You better believe there is.
In the lead-up to the release, Morgen teased that among unseen art, video, interview and home-video footage Montage of Heck would feature unreleased “12-minute acoustic” music from the Cobain vault – to which the film delivers.
A snippet from the film has been popped-up online for your viewing pleasure, the 40-seconds of darkness hears Cobain quietly whisper behind a solemn twang, providing the perfect brooding sentiment to the film’s devastating aesthetic.
Hear it here:
Why This Is The Definitive Kurt Cobain Documentary
It’s been made more than obvious that Montage of Heck is the one and only Kurt Cobain film that has had an all-access pass to the wealth of hidden archives from the late grungers life, however Morgen’s prowess in splicing together messy piles of the the man’s past to create a seamless, easy to follow yet intricately detailed story is to be commended above any other attempt.
Montage of Heck is suited to any lover of film and/or music, this isn’t some basic roots story of one of the world’s greatest rock bands – it’s a never seen before visual tome that explores the inner torment of one of the world’s most unique, creative artists who became so overwhelmed with the pressures of his own brilliance.
You don’t need to be a fan of Nirvana and you don’t have to like Kurt Cobain to appreciate why Montage of Heck is one of the best feature-films to be released in 2015, and just how easily it shadows any predecessor that has attempted to tell its story.
Australian Cinemas Screening Montage Of Heck From May 7
Luna on Essex