Documentary director Brett Morgan continually dazzles audiences with its immersive, loud and haunting musical documentaries. His creative use of stock footage, graphics, original animation, and interviews translate into films that make viewers feel like they’re inside his subjects’ heads. His last doc, the david bowie movie Lunar Reverie, is a glimpse into the mind of one of rock’s brightest stars, who always seemed to be on a journey to understand and celebrate life. Bowie’s ever-changing life and public persona speak to his belief that our time on this planet is a fascinating, exciting, and complex journey.
In contrast, Morgen 2015 kurt cobain movie Heck’s assembly is almost an investigation into the psychology of a talented musician who tragically committed suicide. While both films employ similar creative choices, their subjects land on opposite ends of the spectrum, with one wanting to get on with life and the other feeling utterly discouraged. By comparing and contrasting these two films and their subjects, we will see how, paired, these musical documentaries form a fascinating, existential and rock and roll double feature.
‘Cobain: Montage of Heck’ challenges visual representation
Stylistically, Heck’s assembly becomes both visually and thematically darker as the film progresses. Morgen’s talking head interviews with Cobain’s family and friends are initially shot with daytime lighting and finished at night. This serves as a visual representation of history’s slow march towards Cobain’s untimely death. While other people help explain who Kurt was and how he saw the world, we also dive into his artwork, music, and writing to get a sense of how he saw himself. It’s an interesting contrast between the story of Cobain in his own mind and the story told about him.
The immersive ‘Moonage Daydream’
Lunar Reverie removes third-person interviews and instead allows David Bowie to speak for himself via archival interview excerpts. At the same time, Morgen creates a visually stunning representation of Bowie’s mind. We see Bowie traveling the world, dancing, performing and painting. Lunar Reverie is more immersive than Heck’s assembly and even more subjective. The truth revealed to us is entirely Bowie’s truth, not anyone else’s. This decision to portray only the subjective truth of the protagonist is reminiscent of Morgen’s 2002 film The child stays in the picturewhich was his first experience in an unorthodox documentary style that continued to evolve and radicalize, culminating with Lunar Reverie.
Morgen’s film choices
These similar but notably different cinematic choices may, in part, be the result of how Cobain and Bowie ended their lives, one with gusto and the other with a sense of despair. There is no need for others to comment on Bowie’s death as he did so himself in his work. Cobain’s flame burned brightly and then suddenly went out, leaving the world shocked and mystified. His decision to end his own life doesn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion or a philosophical statement, it’s more like a momentary error in judgment. Still, Morgen does a superb job of showing us how Cobain got to this moment by putting his immersive style to good use. Understanding his perspective leaves the audience with a lot of questions about how such a tragedy could have been avoided. Why does someone decide to end their life and is there anything their loved ones can do to prevent such a decision? What exactly fills a meaningful life, and how can a meaningful life be maintained?
Lunar Reverie sounds much less like a question to be answered than a definitive statement. Bowie tells us that life is a wonderful experience and that he wishes he could continue living it. The film opens with a quote from Bowie thinking about what humans are supposed to do if God is dead, as Nietzsche said. After a lifetime of spiritual exploration and reinvention, the answer from Bowie’s perspective seems to be exactly that: journey, change, and curiosity. Lunar Reverie is about as inspiring as a movie can get. If one wonders if life is worth it, Bowie’s answer is an enthusiastic “yes”!
The very different tones of these films can resonate with different types of viewers. Perhaps some will identify with Kurt’s mental health issues, while others will practically jump out of their seats with glee during certain Bowie performances (at least a few did during a recent screening). IMAX in Los Angeles). Or maybe the movies will hit differently depending on what each audience member is going through in life.
Whichever movie resonates the most, they both take their audiences on a rollercoaster ride that makes the theatrical experience come alive and vibrant again. And the two movies share one defining quality: they’re loud. Don’t just crank the headset all the way up, but full Spinal Tap” it cranks up to 11” loud. It’s rare for a film screening to have the same energy and assault on the senses as a real concert, but these two films definitely do. If possible, view them on a giant screen with the most powerful speakers currently manufactured.
Until you’ve seen a Morgen film, you haven’t really experienced what documentaries are capable of. So plan time to watch these movies in a row. Taken together, Lunar Reverie and Heck’s assembly are like a complete yin and yang of existential cinema, rock and roll.