3 Lessons from Documentary Montage of Heck about Kurt Cobain’s Life
I just watched Brett Morgen’s Documentary Montage of Heck about Kurt Cobain’s life, from his birth to his death. Since 2008 Martin had the permission to use every stored up piece of art Kurt ever created, ranging from his writings and paintings to video and audio recordings, to put together a biography about Kurt’s persona. The Result is a 145 minute long piece of art that brings Kurt’s legacy to life, literally.
After watching this film, I was done for the day, couldn’t consume anything else. My mind needed time to process what I just had witnessed and why I could relate to it on so many levels. The documentary exposes the raw and unfiltered humanness of Kurt Cobain and it really touched me. I don’t want to promote him as a role model but I admire how he was capable of expressing his darkest thoughts, which was part of the tragedy. His writings reveal how aware he was about so many things going on inside his mind but yet he was still not capable to cope with it.
I could go on and on analyzing Kurt’s tragedy, his paradoxical nature, his genius and restless mind that “Montage of Heck” sheds some lights on, but I much rather like to talk about how this film and Kurt’s life can serve as a source of inspiration and wisdom for aspiring artists. Here are three things I observed that were crucial for his success and the way that the outside world perceived him.
Kurt was constantly expressing himself, through his writing, painting, music, sound or simply his body. For him it came naturally, he needed to do it. On the one hand he wrote for himself, intimately and honestly, but on the other hand he made it public. I would describe Kurt as a pretty introverted guy but through his music he was able to reach millions of people. His music touched so many because it is raw, unfiltered and honest. We are all fucked up in a way but seldom does someone have the courage to put it into words so shamelessly, even though shame was Kurt’s kryptonite. If you watch “Montage of Heck” you better understand what I am pointing to. To encapsulate, the key to success here is to express yourself to the masses and have the courage to expose your vulnerability.
As also stated by Brett Morgen, “Montage of Heck” shows Kurt in a way that lets you neither look up to, nor down on him, but right into the eyes. In his lifetime this view was near impossible as his mysteriousness either forced you to idealize or demonize him. Again, his vagueness and mysteriousness wasn’t something he created intentionally but it was just part of who he was. He for example hated to give interviews, which led to a lot of speculation as no one could really figure him out. As far as I can see, his mysterious vibe played a big part in the development of the icon Kurt Cobain. If you are planning to build a legend, be mysterious and paradoxical as it creates more buzz than being fully transparent.
Kurt is a perfect example of polarization. You either love him or hate him, admire him or despise him. As million teens started to listen to nirvana millions of parents started worrying about their children listening to their lyrics. The stronger your message, the more polarized reactions you get. Therefore, polarization takes courage. You have cope with people hating your message, because, “haters gonna hate” but also, “lovers gonna love”. There is no coin with one side only, get used to it. To sum it up, whatever you do creatively don’t try to please everybody. Instead, have the courage to polarize.