Finding Nirvana in Identity

Ringing through my speakers, the angst soaked guitars of Nirvana introduce the viewer to the world of Kurt Cobain. Even though I am “just a teacher”, I happen to be a rock and roll aficionado. And even those who are not the least bit interested in the genre are likely to be acquainted with the band’s work. PBS presents an interesting series entitled “Blank on Blank”, wherein a voice is animated and gives perspective on a particular topic. “Kurt Cobain on Identity” seeks to explore the artist’s voyage through his own crisis of identity while the paired animation communicates the story.


The development of the story line is beautifully communicated through the scenes in the video. Although Cobain’s commentary is fascinating, the deceased singer is not necessary for the narrative. Without the title indicating that the tale is to be about identity, one could use the particular voice clip for many themes or motifs. What sells the story is the animation. Striking images of anger, frustration, and tension walk through the video as Cobain describes his struggles with anger and ultimately seeking a kind of peace. The images support the story teller’s goal more than the verbal narrative itself.

Supporting the story elements, the creativity of the piece stands out. In the beginning, Cobain describes the devastation felt when his parents divorced. His family unit is portrayed in a snow globe where the elements start to melt away. This is juxtaposed to another snow globe of Cobain’s new young family with his wife and child at the end of the story. The use of this particular imagery and its multifaceted meaning was quite original, especially as a visual display.

The story and creative elements may not have been successful without intentional planning. It is clear to the viewer that the animation sequence was meticulously planned to portray the message of identity. Without the purposeful imagery, the message and story would have fallen apart. I considered it to be successful and quite moving. The PBS series is fascinating and I can’t wait to explore more “Blank on Blank” films!

Check out “Kurt Cobain on Identity” here:


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