I finally got a chance to see Montage of Heck. Given the facts: it’s one of the most talked about documentaries in recent memory (never mind music docs), it is produced by perennial hit-makers HBO, and lastly that I was a teenager during Nirvana’s meteoric rise to music supremacy in the early 90s – I had to see it. Thankfully, the film delivers.
MOH is a patchwork of narratives about the late Kurt Cobain as told through a myriad of perspectives including his parents, Courtney Love, his sister, and bandmate/friend Krist Novoselic. The biggest storyteller in the film (and what makes the film so great) is Cobain himself who is brought to life through his drawings, home movies, powerful audio recordings, behind the scenes industry moments, and of course, his music. There are parts of this film where you feel like you’re actually in the room with Cobain during his most intimate and private moments, privy to his thoughts and emotions as he continually expresses his feelings about his strained relationship with the world he found himself a part of. The result is an intimate look into an artist, rather than an after-the-fact eulogy full of navel-gazing talking heads.
Without giving to much away, here are 5 reasons you should see Montage Of Heck:
KURT THE FLAWED FAMILY MAN
Watching Cobain and baby Frances (who co-produced the film) is painfully intimate. We see him interacting with his daughter edited alongside personal journal entries where Cobain discusses his feelings on fatherhood. There are highs and extreme lows. Powerful stuff.
The film begins by explaining the circumstances of Cobain’s upbringing in small town Washington State. The family dynamics, socio-economic conditions of the town contrasted with the national political landscape sets up an interesting backdrop for the film and ultimately the personal and political messages behind Cobain’s art and music. I didn’t know any of this stuff and it provides a context for the film – and ultimately, the man.
KURT & COURTNEY: RAW
We have all heard the stories and rumours about the relationship between these two. In the film, we see Kurt and Courtney at home in their element portrayed through their own personal home movies. We finally get a glimpse of the actual dynamics between rock n’ roll’s most famous couple since John and Yoko. The result is intensely personal.
INSIDE THE INDUSTRY
While not a major focus of the film, we definitely get to see the business side music that Cobain found so challenging. Balancing ambition and drive with the absurdity and insanity of super-stardom comes across strong in parts of the film, especially in scenes where a beleaguered Cobain struggles to find answers to the same mundane questions he faced from a mainstream media whose interpretation of his music was becoming increasingly shallow .
Beyond anything, the film further re-enforces Cobain and Nirvana as a creative force who made music that demanded to be heard. There are some amazing scenes of live concerts, bedroom demos, lyrics, and early incarnations that paint a picture of rock n’ roll as vivid as you’re going to see in any music doc.
Take a look at the trailer for Montage of Heck below: