The new documentary by Academy-award nominated director Brett Morgen provides an intimate look at the late rock star's development as an artist, as well as his struggles with depression and drug use.
In addition to using animation, Cobain's journals, drawings and artwork to tell his story, viewers get a look at family home videos that show Cobain at some of his good and not so good moments. For fans of Cobain, some of the clips are difficult to watch.
What makes the documentary even more heartbreaking is the fact that viewers already know its tragic ending. Cobain's unsuccessful struggles with drug addiction have been well documented, to the point where his name has unfortunately become synonymous with heroin abuse.
By choosing to include footage where Cobain is clearly on heroin, the director has painted a realistic portrayal of addiction and its ability to slowly consume a person's life. The documentary traces Cobain's drug use from his early teen years, when smoking pot and drinking seemed like a harmless way to stave off boredom and sadness, to the last few years of his life battling a full blown addiction.
Director Morgen used a number of drawings, recordings, home video footage, and journal entries left behind by Cobain in an effort to allow the late singer tell the story in his own words. The result is a very real and honest account of the development of an artist through all his struggles and triumphs. In terms of portraying addiction, Montage Of Heck attempts to get to the real root of Cobain's addiction without coming to any definite conclusions on its own.
The documentary presents viewers with accounts of Cobain's childhood trauma and rejection, his struggle with fame and adulthood, and the emotional demons that followed him throughout his life. Viewers can then decide for themselves what motivated Cobain to abuse drugs and eventually commit suicide. This thoughtful approach to portraying addiction is what sets this documentary apart.
Montage Of Heck was authorized by Cobain's mother Wendy O'Connor, his widow Courtney Love, and daughter Frances Bean Cobain. It begins with an examination of Cobain's childhood in Aberdeen, Washington and also details the late singer's rise to fame with Nirvana in the 1990's.
Love first approached director Morgen in 2007 about making the documentary after admiring his work with The Kid Stays In The Picture. She gave Morgen access to previously unseen footage of Cobain. O'Connor also provided childhood photos and home movies of Cobain as a young child. But it's Love's personal footage that gives viewers a personal and unflinching look at how fame and addiction took a toll on the late singer.
The release of Smells Like Teen Spirit propelled Nirvana into the spotlight in 1992 and forever changed the lives of Cobain and band members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl. Cobain's face was everywhere and suddenly he was being called the voice of a generation. Cobain was thrilled at the band's success at first - he had worked hard on his art and music since childhood and it seemed that it was finally paying off.
But the hectic schedule that comes with being one of the world's most in demand bands coupled with the pressure of maintaining an image created by the media proved to be too much. Cobain began withdrawing from his music career soon after by refusing to do interviews and appearances, and even refusing to tour. He also withdrew back into addiction, choosing to instead spend time doing heroin, painting, and practically living in squalor.
The birth of daughter Frances Bean in August of 1992 inspired Cobain to make another attempt to get off drugs and devote himself to fatherhood and music once again. But the pressures of fame and addiction eventually drew the singer back in, resulting in Cobain's tragic suicide in 1994.