[Documentary] Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)

maxresdefaultWhere were you when you heard the news that Kurt Cobain died?

In April, 1994, my sister and I were sharing a one-bedroom loft in the home of a beautiful Victorian House in London, Ontario. The guy who owned it, Bulloch, was a close friend of our Mom’s long-term Boyfriend (who later became my Step-father), who spent many weeks away in Kingston where his girlfriend lived. Good for us, the house was always quiet, and at one point, when our TV’s picture tube blew (a common occurance for us), we’d sneak downstairs to his study, sit on his Freudian leather sofa and utilize his cable TV. It was there around 5 PM April 5, 1994 when Global News broke halfway through the Young and the Restless to let viewers know of Kurt Cobain’s death.

At this point in history, I hadn’t owned any Nirvana albums, and only followed their career via radio, TV, the local pub and my friend, Jenn (that’s the same Jenn who goes to see the Watchmen with me), a big Nirvana fan. Living in a University town like London, Ontario, news of Kurt’s passing funkified the entire city, making it sullen, moody, and distracting. It was particularly awful timing too, as April is commonly known as exam month at Western U. Kurt had a fanbase, and even those who weren’t fans felt the sadness of the news of this musician who shot to stardom, took drugs and then ultimately made the choice to end his life.

Being in a constant spotlight from 1991 to 1994, it was hard to ignore what was going on with Kurt – his drug problems, his hatred for interviews, his relationship with his wife, Courtney Love…it was all juicy fodder for the tabloids. It was difficult separating fact from fiction when the public is fed the same tales over and over. And since his death, there have been theories, and conspiracies about Kurt, his private life and ultimate demise.

As the years pass, documentaries pop up with Kurt Cobain at the centre. Most recently, I watched the gritty Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, a seemingly honest, candid and well-balanced doc that explores Cobain’s early life in Aberdeen, Washington, his troubled family life, his beginnings as a musician, all the way to his rise on the charts. Interviews from those closest to him, including his parents, sister, ex-girlfriend, and former Nirvana bandmates charge a compelling look at this guy who was reluctant to be part of the spotlight. I was surprised to see Courtney Love being interviewed here too. and she winds up being a large component to this doc as several clips from their personal home movies are shown, which, I have to say, are very raw and personal… and not meant for young audiences.  Trippy animated adaptations of Cobain’s writings and personal interviews round out the film in compelling and disturbing artistry.

No doubt, I couldn’t help but feel sadness watching Montage of Heck, thinking about how damn talented Cobain was, feeling a lump in my throat as I sang along to Come As You Are (my favourite Nirvana song), Drain You, Smells Like Teen Spirit, among other fantastic songs. This dude had the attention of my generation, and continues to draw in the younger listeners. His legacy lives on in the bands that try to emulate his raw sound… and in decent films like this.


Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Dir: Brett Morgen


  1. I heard it on the radio and rushed out to phone my brother who was 15 at the time and who had tickets to see Nirvana in a few months time.

    We were both very upset.

    I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see this film, u was a bit worried about it maybe being a bit mawkish. I think your excellent review has tipped me over into wanting to see it now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t remember where I was when I heard that Kurt had died, but I do remember it was either the same day the news broke or the day after being in my cousin’s garage and we were talking about it, rather stunned. Everyone knew how volatile the guy was and that he struggled with heroin, but I don’t think anyone expected him to take his own life.

    But I remember exactly where I was when I heard Layne Staley was found dead. My wife and I were heading home from Columbus, Ohio the day after seeing Wilco at this indoor/outdoor theater when the news broke over the radio. Coincidently it was the same day Cobain died only 8 years later, April 5, 2002.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jen and I will watch this together. We have conflicting opinions on Nirvana. I maintain that their most talented member was the drummer; Jen goes with Kurt. We have had heated debates. Therefore this is a perfect “movie night” choice for us. Thanks Sarca.

    Oh and strangely I can’t remember a thing about where I was when I heard Kurt died. April 5, I would have been studying for final exams. That may explain it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t remember where I was exactly, but I was at university in Windsor then.

    I’ve seen the CDs of this in the shops, but I think the doc appeals to me more. I’ll look for it. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice write up! I was working and some one said that Cobain committed suicide! It was like a Wow Moment! I wasn’t the biggest fanboy of them (I owned Nevermind and In Utero) it was still bizarre as it all unfolded as the press had a field day with it …..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t have an exact recollection of how I found out… seem to remember I was in a pub! Definitely talked about it in the pub but can’t remember if that’s where I heard the news or if I found out just before going.

    I have seen this doc though. Was never a fan, and I’m still not, but it was an interesting film. Seemed quite honest.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I honestly didn’t get into Nirvana until shortly after he died. I was familiar with the songs, but didn’t really pay much attention to the band at all. I’d got into them in a big way … but just missed the boat. Maybe why I have conflicting opinions about them.

    Anyhoo, I watched this not so long ago. I thought it was more of a Courtney Love thing, myself.

    … I’m not convinced it was suicide, either.


    1. Fair enough! There are several theories swirling around about Cobain and his death…not to start a debate here, but they haven’t convinced me enough to believe this wasn’t a suicide.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s fair enough, also! Loads of points for and against each theory. I dare say we’ll never know. The only folks that know, will be the folks that know (if that makes sense).

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I was 12 when Kurt died so don’t really remember hearing the news. I haven’t seen this film but have heard it praised for putting a real human face to him, showing more than just the sides that we knew from folklore.

    Liked by 1 person

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