Tonight I attended the North American public premiere of Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.
I'll start by saying this: I'm a huge Nirvana fan. I was the "right age" when they became famous, and Kurt Cobain's life and death have haunted me ever since. I knew that I would see any documentary that was ever made about him/the band; I had no idea I'd see one that moved me this much.
Director Brett Morgen, privy to unprecedented access to the Cobain family storage vault, traces the genesis of the grunge genius in this raw, unvarnished, unpretentious series of moments captured by various friends, family members and journalists.
Beginning with Kurt's mother Wendy, his entire life is constructed by memories of those who were closest to him—and by Kurt himself.
When so seamlessly weaved together as they are here, the stages of his soul's progress are jarring. What begins as a picture perfect life for a boisterous blond baby soon becomes a cloud of shame for a child embarrassed by his parents' divorce. His energy—instead of being channeled into the music and art he was so good at—instead turns to mischief and darkness as he bounces from home to home, feeling rejected at each stop.
His family loved him, but he was out of control. Fortunately he found a good girlfriend to float him through periods of unemployment and allow him to perfect his creative crafts: writing, drawing, playing the guitar and singing. Unfortunately, he also learned to self-medicate his chronic stomach pain with heroin. And alcohol, and marijuana, etc.
Then along came Nirvana, and later Courtney Love, and the rest is music history.
The film shows us many things we already knew about Cobain, but what makes it special is how it conveys the things we didn't. Kurt's glorious innocence and sweetness as a toddler; his tender love for his wife; his sophisticated cries for help masked by elaborate artwork; his absolute dedication to being a better father than the one he had.
There was an innate kindness to Kurt that many spoke of in interviews after he passed, but here we get to witness it first-hand, from the little boy trying to feed the ceramic turtle his saltine cracker, to the proud papa throwing himself all over the room to make his infant daughter giggle.
It's painful to think that if his family unit had remained intact or if he hadn't been the victim of ridicule as a teenager that he may not have become an addict and could be alive today.
But there's also the chance that if his young life had been more conventional, he may never have been driven to express himself so deeply, or ever have shared his gifts with the world. And as tragic as it is, his passing brought awareness about the evils of drug use and the senselessness of suicide to the masses.
There has never been a more beautiful sacrificial lamb.