Back in November, it was announced that HBO would be putting out a documentary called Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, premiering on May 4th. It’s only one of many documentaries about the famous singer and Nirvana frontman, but it’s already being called the definitive documentary – and one that will give his fans a chance to learn about his life outside of tabloids and old Rolling Stone articles.
Part of what makes this film so exciting and genuine is the participation that Brett Morgen got from Cobain’s family. Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, first approached director Morgen about the idea of doing a film eight years ago. Love gave him total access to one of her storage units, which – unbeknownst to her – contained all of Cobain’s private artwork, journals, home videos, and over a hundred autobiographical cassette tapes that no one had heard before.
Even though Love set the wheels in motion, she had very little to do with Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck after that, except for one or two interviews or statements. She didn’t even see any parts of the film until it was done, final, and completed just before the Sundance Music Festival. The documentary also includes interviews and statements from both of Cobain’s parents, his sister, Love, and his ex-girlfriend, Tracy Marander. Nirvana band member Krist Novoselic also appears in the film to say a statement or two, but very little is heard from the other Nirvana band members. Cobain and Love’s daughter, Frances Bean, played a more active role as executive producer for the film. That’s when the real work started.
Morgen said in an interview that, when he first met Frances, one of the first things she told him was, “Just so you know, I know you more than I know my father, and I’ve only known you for two minutes.” But through the production of the movie, and going through all of the material found in the storage unit, Bean had the remarkable opportunity to really learn about her father in a first-hand type of way. In the same interview, Morgen mentioned how being able to bring Frances Bean closer to her father was his crowning achievement. It was for two years that they worked with the same goal in mind: to present Kurt as human – nothing more, nothing less.
That’s the other thing that makes Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck the best documentary – and perhaps the only one you’ll ever need to see – about the famous musician. The film is brutally honest, showing all the parts of Cobain, good and bad. Cobain’s autobiographical tapes and journal entries drive the story full force, chronologically telling all of what made up Cobain’s life without any censorship. None of the material is edited for content, and things like Cobain’s sexual encounters and heroin addiction are portrayed in the truest light possible. While a majority of Montage of Heck is made up from Cobain’s recently found material and interviews from Cobain’s remaining family members, the film also includes some interviews and media clips that Cobain did while he was alive and with Nirvana. This provides a startling look at how fame affected him, and how different he acted when he was in the spotlight. Slowly, you can see where his illness started to get the better of him.
With the vast material he was given, Morgen was able to create a genuine story of Cobain’s life as told through the singer’s point of view. And when there’s no longer any material to work with, and Cobain’s not there to partly play the narrator, that’s when the film ends. It doesn’t go into how Cobain died, or the effect that it had on the world around him. When asked why he ended the film like that, Morgen said “I didn’t want to make a celebration of death… I wanted to make a celebration of life.”
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck acts as a way to tell Cobain’s story, to show his life away from the spotlight and the media’s perceptions of him. And through interviews with the ones he left behind, home videos that are both beautiful and terrifying, and unique journal entries by Cobain himself: his story was told, in the most truthful and genuine way possible.
FDRMX Eyes: Check out UK rock band Fort Hope’s music video below. “New Life” follows the band as they prepare for an upcoming show.