Cobain: Montage of Heck works best as a visual representation of Kurt Cobain’s psyche and darkest, inner thoughts. Frequently accompanied by journal entries, sketches, poems, old family photos, spoken word extracts and intimate home movies the film has a lot of treasures to share. Candid insights from members of his family and personal friends are enlightening (Courtney Love is shockingly open and frank) and sometimes harrowing (the recollections of Cobain’s first sexual encounter are like something out of a Nick Cave song) but the film goes a long way to fill in the blanks only hinted at by Cobain’s art without destroying the mystique.
Those looking for more of a sensationalist approach will be disappointed. The film ends abruptly with Cobain’s death and is more fascinated by the demons that haunted him while he was alive rather than the fallout of his suicide. Key figures like Dave Grohl and daughter Frances Bean are suspiciously absent. Maybe it comes down to mere availability (in Grohl’s case) or respect (in Frances’) but you can’t help but feel like the film would be more definitive were their voices included.
I enjoyed director Brett Morgan’s approach for the most part. As I said above, it’s more a collage of Cobain’s consciousness than a straight-forward tell-all but the materials sometimes reach new meaning with this presentation. Slowed down clips of the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video set to a choral rendition of the song, for example, manage to become the film’s most haunting moment. Despite this, the film tends to ramble at times, though I imagine hardcore Cobain enthusiasts will cherish every minute, and all to rarely delivers a real punch. I enjoyed it and appreciated the intimacy of it, but as just a casual Nirvana fan I can’t see myself going back to this much in the future.