What Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck Says About Being a Human

July 1, 2015
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as a teenager, i listened to
rap music almost exclusively . .

its sound so dominated my life,
that i remember hearing
“Smells Like Teen Spirit”
for the first time
and thinking that
Kurt Cobain’s pick scratching
during the opening riff
was created using turntables . .

i said to myself
in the Meijer parking lot:
“these guys get it!
they took some sort of
loud, white-guy punk rock
and added record scratching!

flash forward to me this week,
finally getting to see
Brett Morgen’s HBO documentary
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,
which uses a mesmerizing blend of
archival audio, video, stills,
art, journals,
original interviews and animation,
to tell the story
of the rise and fall
of the star-crossed Nirvana frontman

who has now been playing
guitar for over 20 years . .
who is currently in a
loud, white-guy punk rock band . .
who would now proudly count Nirvana
among my biggest musical influences . .

and what am i thinking?

i’m thinking that,
as a movie,
Montage of Heck is
equally captivating and frustrating,
like Cobain himself . .
it begins strongly and feels
quality throughout,
particularly the animated sections,
but it lags once Courtney Love
is introduced,
and ends anticlimactically . .
it languishes in bittersweet
home video for the last
twenty minutes and
ends with a title card
about the suicide . .

absent is the contextualizing
of a fuller exploration of
Cobain’s life . .
Charles Cross’ Heavier Than Heaven,
for example . .

of course, perhaps this was the
desired effect . .
the John & Yoko angle has
been put to Kurt and Courtney before,
even conspicuously in this film itself,
so maybe Morgen wanted her
addition to spell the end . .

and the suicide is
the end of Cobain’s earthly story,
if the focus is to be
what the title promises:
a montage . .
not a retrospective,
not an elegy,
but a swirling experience
of his life and only
his life . .

in any case,
like with Cobain himself,
i couldn’t look away,
though i was kind of sad throughout,
especially at the end

and what else am i thinking?

that in this way,
Cobain is a microcosm
standing in for the macrocosm
of humanity itself . .

after all,
aren’t humans,
all of us,
captivating, yet repellent . .
beautiful, yet horrid . .
so full of promise,
full of creative spark,
yet so fragile,
so full of potential for ill
and tragedy . . ?

Dr. Frankenstein/Frankenstein’s monster
Cobain as child/Cobain as addict
Cobain as creator/Cobain as corpse ?


but does it only sadden,
this fact that
humans are so?
does it merely sober?
do we fight it?
do we just shrug at it?
whatever. nevermind.


we take
the fact that
humans are so,
and we accept,
appropriate . .

the Bible says humans are
like dust and grass . .
(Psalm 103)
it wonders who can understand
the deceitfulness of our hearts . .
(Jeremiah 17)
but it also says we are
fearfully and wonderfully made . .
(Psalm 139)
it says that God so loved us,
that He died to save us . .
(John 3)

so, to all this: yes.

to the
tempered glory of
humans . .

to the
brilliant darkness of
someone like Kurt Cobain . .
someone like
all of
us . .

to the
of us . .
all of us . .

to the fact of our duplicity
and, finally,
to the fact that God
is making all things –
even humans –
new . .
. . .
. .

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Matt Hill has contributed to hollywoodjesus for the past decade, taking on movies, music, books, games and other topics. He writes from Michigan, where he lives with his wife and kids. Visit facebook.com/sundayiam for free music from his sweet, super-secret Christian rock band.

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