Kurt Cobain committed suicide at his Lake Washington Blvd home in April 1994. For most millennials, that puts the Nirvana frontman in the realm of Seattle music legend. For those old enough to have seen Nirvana perform here, Cobain’s legacy is enriched by memories of his shows and the surreal period of time he and the city were riding the crest of pop culture.
A new documentary on Cobain, Montage of Heck, attempts to paint another portrait of the artist, expressed through home videos, animated art, and the piles of journals Cobain kept throughout his life.
Starting Thursday night, Capitol Hill will be home to a one-week exclusive theatrical run of the film at SIFF Cinema Egyptian prior to the documentary’s May 4th release on HBO.
The film premiered at the Cinerama theater Wednesday night followed by a discussion with director Brett Morgan. “As I was coming into Seattle on the plane it just felt so right. There’s no place we should be than here,” Morgan said.
More on the film — and this weekend’s lineup of Capitol Hill-area events, below.
Montage of Heck, named after the title of a legendary Cobain mix tape, mostly avoids delving into what was happening locally in Olympia and Seattle during the peak of Nirvana’s success. Those interested in seeing archival footage from local bygone venues of the late 80s and early 90s won’t find much here.
Interviews also play a relatively small role in the film for a documentary, though rare discussions with Cobain’s parents offer a window into their son’s genius as well as his debilitating depression. It’s actually Cobain who provides some of the most captivating audio through dictations of his own journals.
The soundtrack is almost exclusively comprised of recordings made throughout Nirvana’s career, as well as some of Cobain’s solo recordings.
Beyond playing music, Cobain was a prolific visual artist and writer and Montage of Heck draws heavily on using a trove of Cobain’s creative work to animate the film. Several years ago, Morgan was given access to a storage space filled with Cobain’s art and journals, which is how the film began.
Any discussion of Nirvana, let alone a documentary about the band, is bound to stir up some strong opinions in Seattle. During the director discussion Wednesday night, one woman who claimed to know Cobain accused Morgan of only telling “Courtney’s story,” referring to Cobain’s wife Courtney Love. The comment sparked a heated exchange over Morgan’s use of intimate home videos shot near the end of Cobain’s life when he was clearly struggling with heroin addiction.
“(The film) strips away some layers of the myth to reveal the man,” Morgan said. “As harrowing as it can be, I hope you realize it’s also a celebration.”