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Film Contemplation: The Doors (1991) Film Review

Updated on May 28, 2020
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This account is created for reflecting on timeless classics along with some flawed ones. We will discuss movies and everything around it.

' It's not about the money.. or the records or success.. or these.. desires that you have. It's about using the music to break through '

Oliver Stone's The Doors (1991) is a hypnotic psyched up musical that ventures on a dark path as a way to express it's non-conforming spirit. In a way, the Jim Morrison biopic also treads on the director's iconoclast inclinations.

The Doors depicts Morrison's brief tryst with poetry, rock, fame, women, booze, copulation and drugs. All this while he is in search of a greater nirvana, which will emancipate him from his present state of slavery. Added to this is his anguish towards others acceptance of precept which gravitates him towards hatred. These emotions amplify inside him which ultimately lead him to cherish the seductions of death.

The Doors (1991) film poster
The Doors (1991) film poster | Source

The opening few minutes of the film are more than enough to understand the 'lizard king's ascetic soul which is in a constant state of conflict with his rebellious spirit. It starts with a beautiful prologue which Morrison brandishes while recording a song in a studio. He laments the caged lifestyle of people and their sufferings. While it is certainly done with astounding finesse, the flashback scenes that follow aren't as much captivating. And this is a recurring theme throughout the picture which doesn't have a single peak point where you can feel overwhelmed by the drama on screen. It doesn't have any particular nadir point either so you can't complain much.

These emotions amplify inside him which ultimately lead him to cherish the seductions of death.

The first flashback takes us to New Mexico, 1949 when a young Jim and his family encounter a dying man and his grieving companions from a possible road accident. This chance meeting has a profound effect on him as we understand later. It lays out the difference in the outlook of the Morrison family. While his mother wants him to enjoy the visuals of puffy clouds and to divert him from the distressing matter, Jim is just not able to let go of the image of the man in agony. It hints as a possible reason for his detachment from them. The next flashback takes us to 1965, where a twenty-one year old Jim (Val Kilmer) leaves UCLA school and his dreams of being a filmmaker because his peers can't relate to his work. Later that night he meets Pam, his future muse. She encourages his poetry and also his much polarizing lyrics among The Doors, his band, in '66. Slowly the boys gain recognition and soon starts Morrison's tribulations with the aforementioned things but most of all with himself.

A still from The Doors
A still from The Doors | Source

Oliver Stone goes more than a tad overboard in respect to the depiction addiction scenes. A very weird one has Kilmer laughing outrageously when in an intimate moment with a woman. The lighting is also bloody red in most of them, in a way conveying hell. It would have done the picture much good if Stone had opted for a more auteur's approach to the narrative. This is not discounting the fact that even what he executes here, with all the over the top antics, still manages to feel apt. Maybe it's due to the spiritual search of the singer that The Doors keeps lingering on. And to consider the fact that the director certainly enjoyed a creatively satisfying year with both The Doors and JFK releasing in '91. Its most likely next in line after Spielberg with '94 (Schindler's list and Jurassic Park) and Coppola with '74 (The Godfather Part II and The Conversation). The screenplay by J. Randal Johnson and Stone certainly has enough depth and gravitas to pull in even the the most ardent critics of the band. There is no loose end despite the 140 minutes exhilaration ride.

The lighting is also bloody red in most of them, in a way conveying hell

Val Kilmer has immersed himself in the role of Jim. Not once do you feel you are watching Kilmer on screen and not Morrison. It's a career defining turn from him and deserves a lot of accolades. Meg Ryan plays his love interest, Pam, and keeps flipping in and out of the film. Her character symbolizes society's puzzlement with artists. One moment she hates him for his ways while next moment she loves him for his stupefying poems and keeps coming back due to his persona.

The cast playing The Doors
The cast playing The Doors | Source

The title of the film is a bit misleading as none of the rest of the band members enjoy much screen time or character arcs. The Doors solely focus on Morrison and the band only comes into play as a supporting act to depict their part in his life. A good relief is that the film doesn't attempt to hogwash his moment in the sun and blame some sneaky manager for his misery. It also does it's basic job well, that of enduring the audience with the king of rock.


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