“The Doors” – the Story of the Legendary Jim Morrison

The Doors 1991


Title: “The Doors”

Release Date: 1991

Director: Oliver Stone

Cast: Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachan, Frank Whaley, Kevin Dillon, Kathleen Quinlan



“When Morrison died in 1971, that event was to me what the day of Kennedy’s death was to others,” said Oliver Stone, director of the monumental film biography of the leader of the group “The Doors.” Shot with unabashed admiration for the protagonist, the picture is a portrait of a visionary, poet and singer whose desire to push further boundaries proved as unbridled as it was destructive. Morrison’s character was phenomenally created on screen by Val Kilmer, and his partner was played by Meg Ryan.

“The Doors” and the cinema of Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone is a director who creates subjective cinema, which remains firmly rooted in the personal experiences of the filmmaker. Famous movie about Vietnam headed by “Platoon” and politically engaged pictures are the result of the author’s participation in the war and the consequences of this landmark event in his biography. The incredibly famous work “Born Killers,” on the other hand, is an expression of Stone’s critical reflection on American culture that has always glorified strong, violent heroes. “The Doors,” on the other hand, is both an expression of the director’s adoration of his idol, Jim Morrison, and a subjective picture of the cultural revolution in the US in the late 1960s and early 1970s, of which the American rock group became one of the immortal symbols.

The film “The Doors” is also in keeping with Stone’s penchant for constructing cinematic portraits of famous figures. The same year 1991 saw “JFK” about President Kennedy, in 1995 “Nixon,” and after 2000 the director made “Alexander,” “W.” and “Snowden.” It is worth noting that each time we are dealing with the image of the protagonist strongly filtered by the personal sympathies and views of the creator, situating the character in a particular order of values. It is no different with the figure of Jim Morrison, an icon of the search for absolute freedom in life and in art.

The Doors movie review

The movie “The Doors” – Jim Morrison and the legendary band

The movie “The Doors” is not a comprehensive biography of Jim Morrison, as it focuses on six years: from 1965 (when the band was founded) to 1971 (the death of the charismatic group leader). However, flashbacks from the protagonist’s childhood are woven into the plot, or rather, one memory that represents a key formative experience in his life. This is the opening sequence of the film accompanied by the famous hit song “Riders on the Storm”. Here we see little Jim, along with his parents and siblings, driving a car through the New Mexico desert and unexpectedly witnessing a fatal accident. Before his eyes, an aged Indian dies, whose figure will henceforth appear in Morrison’s visions.

Other stills from the musician’s life before forming the band depict desert lizards, as Morrison was fascinated by these animals and called himself the “lizard king”. We also see snapshot scenes of the artist’s university adventure, when he tries unsuccessfully to make films inspired by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche in New York. And finally, his meeting with Ray Manzarek (played by Kyle MacLachlan), which results in the formation of the legendary band “The Doors” with an ambiguous name taken from Aldous Haxley’s book “The Doors of Perception.”

From this moment, the rapid journey of Jim Morrison and his band to the musical heights begins. The strategy of scandal provoking alternately the admiration and scorn of the public eventually results in the launch of the first hit “Light My Fire” breaking all records of popularity. The rebellious America of the second half of the 1960s is literally crazy about its idol. The relentless life on the edge, constant drug trance and grueling concerts come at a price. More and more mistresses appear in the musician’s bed, which leads to brawls with his beloved Pam (Meg Ryan). The body rebels due to the excess of stimulants, the world begins to slip out of his hands….

The Doors film Val Kilmer

“The Doors” – a portrait of a charismatic musician

The structural axis of the film “The Doors” is the extraordinary character of Jim Morrison, sensationally played by Val Kilmer. The entire film narrative is subjective in nature, constantly focusing on the protagonist and showing the world only from his point of view. Stone creates a myth of Morrison on screen, portraying him as an extraordinary figure, connected to the world of spirits and magic. His sojourn in the wilderness with a group of his closest friends just before writing music seems to allude to the biblical story of Christ, who, before he began to teach, retreated with his apostles to the wilderness.

Morrison’s concerts are not ordinary musical events, but spectacles resembling ritual rites. The hero captivates the crowds; he is not so much a singer as a shaman, performing an ancient Indian dance. The figure of the Indian, moreover, is significant and symbolic in Stone’s work, a sign of the original innocence of an America not yet tainted by the brutality of the invaders. Morrison of “The Doors” is not so much making a career as he is on a mission to reach young minds and hearts, facilitated by a pervasive atmosphere of contestation. He is like the dark mythical god Dionysus putting his audience into a hypnotic trance. He’s not interested in making money, which is why he reacts with fury to selling The Doors’ big hit to commercials.

His charisma also comes from an unheard-of sense of his own audience. In his own words, people come to concerts not for simple entertainment, but because they want to touch something transcendent. Val Kilmer has created a character in “The Doors” that eludes simple categorization, because he is a character that is, in a sense, unreal. He’s a phenomenon whose all of life’s flaws seem to fade into an authentic quest for absolute freedom.

The Doors film analysis

“The Doors” and Morrison’s death

It is worth noting the interesting plot construction of “The Doors”, which reflects the leitmotif of Morrison’s fascination with death. The initial frames, showing the situation before the start of the actual action, is the image of the protagonist, hidden in the darkness, writing the lyrics of the song “The Movie”, with what meaningful words, providing an excellent prelude to the picture:

“The movie will begin in five moments.

The mindless voice announced.

All those unseated will await the next show.

We filed slowly, languidly into the hell.

The auditorium was vast and silent.

As we seated and were darkened, the voice continued,

The program for this evening is not new.

You’ve seen this entertainment through and through.

You’ve seen your birth, your life and death.

You might recall all the rest.

Did you have a good world when you died?

Enough to base a movie on?”