Directed and written by Brett Morgen

Starring: Kurt Cobain, Don Cobain, Jenny Cobain, Kim Cobain, Courtney Love and Krist Novoselic

This is obviously a no-brainer for any Nirvana fan. As much as I hate to admit it, some credit has to be given to Courtney Love for finally allowing us to see into the tortured soul of Kurt Cobain. Twenty years we waited. I was eight years old when Kurt died. Being immersed wholly in the music at the time, his death wasn’t something I could fully understand. Nor was I aware of the relentlessness of the media towards him that obviously contributed to it all. All I knew was that at seven years of age, I had found this person who I somehow connected to. It wasn’t until I grew up a bit into my teens when I realised why his music was powerful, and while I read articles complaining about nonsensical lyrics, to me, they made perfect sense. Each and every song. Every line. I never thought I would be lucky enough to see something like this. So with great hesitance I must thank Courtney for allowing us to see into his final few years. However, she is certainly no fucking saint, no no, not by a long shot. Despite being the reason this documentary exists, she certainly does nothing to discredit the nasty things said about her, and the fact that she almost certainly had the final cut on this film looms over the entire story for those familiar with it.

kurt-cobain-montage-of-heck-2The film follows Kurt’s life in a chronological fashion, beginning with old recordings of him as a child with his parents narrating, commenting on his ‘hyper’, never idle hands. The animated sequences that match recordings of Kurt’s voice look fantastic, and serve as a trip into Kurt’s early life that was always different. The animation of a young Cobain’s diaries intensifies this, as we are taken into the hyperactive mind of Kurt Cobain and feel his pain of being rejected by his parents, by almost everyone. It is touching on many levels, even if you aren’t a fan of Nirvana. I have read parts of his diaries, but to see them animated on screen was something else. The pain, the rejection, the humiliation and the alienation felt by Kurt echoes my experiences as a younger person so much, I honestly felt like these diaries could have been my own – just minus, you know, the genius musician part. They offer so much insight into where Kurt’s music came from, and for me it confirmed the reasons why I was able to identify with such abrasive music at seven years of age. It all makes sense to me now.

“The acclaim isn’t worth it unless you still like playing”

The film’s greatest strength is that it doesn’t dwell on his death, or the idiotic conspiracy theories that surround it. Rather, it celebrates the music and explores the misunderstanding of one of rock’s greatest musicians. The final act of the film however takes on a darker tone, as Kurt’s flirting with heroin became a full time job. After he marries Love, almost all the home-video tapes show no friends. No band-members. Love freely admits that heroin was a part of the deal when they got together, yet she refuses to acknowledge any responsibility for his death, or for any of his later problems. Not once does she display anything that is close to regret or guilt. If anything, she actually pushes any blame onto the man the film is about, someone who cannot speak against her claims. If she thought she was hated when she was with Kurt, her emotionally disengaged comments about him here will only amplify this hate. On one hand, I could begrudgingly say that it was brave of her to let some of the home footage be shown, as both parents are drugged up to their eyeballs while playing with their baby daughter. It is somewhat disturbing. But on the other side of the coin, I can’t help but think that these videos are just the tip of the iceberg. If that was what she was willing to show, one can only speculate as to whether there are more damning videos that will never see the light of day.

Kurt looking about as happy as can be expected

d543cea9e8f920d4840ed6570580f95a-640x360This is the film’s biggest fault, but it was also the only way the film was ever going to get made. She owns all the rights to Cobain’s work; it is obvious that they loved each other. But as I alluded to, all the later home-videos show no friends, making the co-dependent nature of their relationship obvious. Though not directly asked, this of course isn’t reinforced by Love. The only time she expresses any actual emotion is when she answers a question with “Fuck yeah we wanted to have a baby”. Take from that comment what you will; it was the only time she was was actually animated and had emotion in her voice. This comment really does makes me wonder of her true nature, as an odd factor here is that while their daughter is listed as a co-producer of the film, she doesn’t appear on-screen. Whether this was her choice or not I am not sure, but it certainly feels like a missing piece of a puzzle, especially after the home-videos of her as an infant. The same goes for drummer Dave Grohl, whose absence here is rather obvious and adds to the feeling that Courtney Love had a picture of how she wanted this to look long before it was made. If his interviews were to have been included, one would expect them to be as highly edited as those of Kurt’s other band-mate, bassist Krist Novecelic, who is obviously trying to figure out what he can say and what will be simply edited out.

Wait, give me a moment to make sure this is included in the film

On a technical level, the film is excellently executed, with the perfect mix of live recordings, home videos, animated sequences to match his diaries, and interviews with those who knew him best. There is no doubt that this looks great, and it obviously sounds great too, with many classical renditions of Nirvana songs that are instantly recognisable to a Nirvana fan. The music used throughout appropriately intensifies as we get closer to the end of the film, and how we know it will end. It is an experience, one that will linger in my brain for a while, and not just because of my love for the music. It is a visually striking and unique film about a truly unique person who connected with so many people, but wasn’t ready for what would result from that connection.

vaYCZHuAs a fan of this band since childhood, I am a satisfied customer. Down under this was screened for a limited time as a feature film, and it certainly enhanced the experience, especially the music and animated sequences. Despite being a thoroughly enjoyable ride, the film raises almost as many questions as it answers; the biggest being ‘how bad did it really get?’ as Love’s presence looms over the entire film and every interview contained within it; I feel that there are many pieces to this puzzle that will never see the light of day. For the fan then, this is a conflicting film. For anyone who isn’t a fan, this is an intensely personal documentary, executed in a slightly surreal and colourful way that is never boring for a second.

4/5  – Recommended to fans of the band or music in general, which I think covers most of the population. Music is a universal language after all.

21 Comments on “COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK [2015]

    • If also definitely gives their music more meaning to me. I think everyone should listen to the album Nevermind once, it is one of a kind and the most listener-friendly album he wrote. Particularly the song Lithium, you must check it out!

      thanks for reading 🙂


  1. What a great read dude. I can’t wait to check this out, even given my somewhat ‘meh’ response to Nirvana. There are some songs that can’t be overlooked, though. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is one of my anthems even to this day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah ‘teen spirit’ will forever be a classic. Have you heard Lithium dude?

      “I’m so happy, cos today I found my friends, they’re in my head” – been my favourite song since I was seven years old.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hell yeah man. So many people have written about Kurt’s lyrics as making no sense. They all make perfect sense to me. Over 20 years this band has been a part of my life, and they will until I die. And I have Cobain to thank for that 🙂


  2. Very interesting read Jordan. I wouldn’t have any desire to watch this – except for reading your review. Sounds really interesting!

    So when you say that Courtney said heroin was part of the deal (when she got with Kurt) what did she mean? You mean like, she had to be allowed to take heroin, that was part of their deal? Or it was just a way of life for them or something?

    Sounds very fascinating in any case. Really great review Jordan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Drugs become a just a way of life when you do them too much. Love goes into more detail regarding your question during the interviews, though it was actually Kurt’s band-mate who said that when they got together, drugs were a factor, or something to that effect. I’m paraphrasing. TBH, I don’t know how that line didn’t get cut.

      Love herself said ‘i met him having already beat it’ which…. well its such a dumb thing to say, especially in retrospect… but she met him apparently clean, while he was using. She actually correctly points out that its never a good idea to hang around junkies when you are one yourself, but doesn’t even acknowledge she’d done anything wrong (she started using again after they met, including while she was pregnant. Their child was born a drug addict).

      Its actually a really moving film, I don’t think you need to be any sort of fan at all. Do you dislike their music? Just curious why you’d never desire to watch this 🙂

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh no I don’t dislike their music, I don’t love it but I can appreciate it, especially the Nevermind album which did feature in my youth 🙂

        I don’t know really, never had any interest in Kurt Cobain I suppose. I know that sounds mean and ignorant! I am very intrigued about this documentary after reading your review though!

        Yes two junkies getting together is probably not the best idea, you can justify each other’s use and normalise it. It’s true what you say about regular drug use just becoming a part of life.

        It’s the kid I feel sorry for! But we were all kids at one point, like Kurt too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “But we were all kids at one point, like Kurt too.”

        Yeah, and he was something like 24 when they released Nevermind!

        If you don’t mind their music I’d definitely recommend this, it just hits so hard on a personal level, Kurt went through hell before he had Nirvana as a way to scream it all out.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We were all damaged kids at one point lol. Like I feel sorry for Francis Bean because she didn’t ask to be born to a couple of drug addicts but at the same time, both those drug addicts were probably kids in a tough situation as well. We just forget that as people get older and start blaming them instead.

        If ANY of that made sense haha!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Probably for the best, she needs some normality in her life. Poor Kurt. I’ve been thinking about him this morning (after our comments and stuff) and he really took the whole tortured soul thing seriously 😦

        I read an interview with their daughter recently, in Rolling Stone I think and it was interesting. She has some firm ideas about her father and his suicide and seems like a nice kid. She said Dave Grohll (spelling?!) said she’s just like her dad.

        I will watch this! You always post such interesting things Jordan! Hope I don’t get too annoying posting all these comments!!!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not at all, comments are always welcomed! 🙂

        He didn’t take it seriously so much, he was just an extremely sensitive person who had a really shitty childhood, and then when the media started bugging him he couldn’t handle it. I know I couldn’t.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Snap, me too! I’m not even on Facebook because I cannot stand having my life online for people to see. I like privacy. I cannot understand how people live their lives in the spotlight. Being slagged off, dissected, photographed, judged. I’d probably kill myself too. Okay that sounds dramatic and I didn’t mean it in an insulting way. But I’d NEVER want to live my life like that!

        Sensitive people have more of a cross to bear than some.

        Thanks Jordan!! Sometimes I write shit and babble, glad you don’t mind lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hehe i don’t mind at all! I don’t really use facebook either, certainly don’t post photos of myself on it.. it just seems like such a daft thing to do, I mean you never know what could come back to bite you on the backside. What is fucked is people can ‘tag’ you in photos. That is what i really don’t like about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah it’s horrible! It’s too invasive. I am a bit ‘funny’ about things like that, I don’t want people knowing my business. (I probably sound a little dodgy lol but I’m just a private, loner kind of person)

        And not being nasty but I have little interest at keeping in contact with old school friends too. I mean being friends with 100s of acquaintances just to write a status about eating Dominos pizza?


        I did used to be on facebook but I just didn’t like it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah good call. I am exactly the same, bit of a loner, a private person. Its good I don’t have many ‘friends’ on there anyway and i rarely go out on weekends so there isn’t much chance of a photo popping up with my name attached to it without me knowing. Its kinda funny tho, my posts on here automatically get posted on facebook somehow, I don’t even remember ever setting that up, but apparently my mum and my step-mum really enjoy them haha! 😀 Ahhh how sad!

        And yeah, I’m not sure why I’d want to talk every now and then to old schoolmates who I haven’t seen for over a decade. They are just super FAKE conversations. As for posting stuff like “I’m eating pizza right now” or even worse, “I’m so depressed, what a horrid day”…. that is behaviour I reeeeally don’t understand at all


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