HBO Documentary Films

Written and Directed by Brett Morgen

Review by Vanessa Markov

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is a brilliantly successful attempt to get behind the eyes and into the head of the late Nirvana frontman.

The uncomplicated, chronological flow of events supported by Kurt’s journal entries, poetry, and lyrics manages to make one subtle but incredibly powerful birds-eye observation:

Corporate music sensationalized a chronically depressed young adult who found a way to tolerate his life (and severe, undiagnosed stomach pain) through playing guitar and shooting up. Instead of using their investigative powers to understand Kurt’s notorious rebellion and support him, the media made their living by heckling and criticizing the shit out of him and (presumably) the only person he felt understood him – his equally disturbed, drug addicted young wife – until he couldn’t take it anymore. What a feeling it must be when the whole world wants a piece of you while simultaneously sneering in your face…

I’m not making excuses for anyone’s choices and behaviour, but it’s really hard to walk away from this documentary without feeling enraged at the corporate music industry, disgusted with the media, and personally ashamed for ever having made light of what both Kurt and Courtney went through at such a young age. I was only a child when I heard of Nirvana, and now that I’m older than Kurt was when he died, I can’t help but feel the deepest sadness for a man who was, in fact, no more than a “problem child” who was virtually abandoned by narcissistic parents and, despite worldwide fame, never got the love or help he needed to overcome his pain.

I think every serious musician, fan or not, should watch or know about this documentary because there still exists this rampant idea that it’s romantic to follow in the footsteps of our dead heroes.

NO!! It is NOT okay to bastardize someone’s pain to solve or justify your own, and it’s especially not okay to think drug abuse is just “part of the game”.

Let’s do Kurt, Amy, Jimi, Janis, Bradley, and every other gone-too-soon artist the justice they deserve, and actually learn from their stories and mistakes, so we can shut this club down before Miley and Justin have a chance to join it. God knows, it already might be too late.

Montage of Heck is running at Hot Docs ’til May 30.