When You’re Strange (2009) – A Review


A review of the 2009 documentary When You’re Strange about the life of Jim Morrison and the band The Doors

When You're Strange Doors Jim Morrison documentary

I’m not a huge music lover, but one band that I’ve always loved has been the Doors. Since discovering their music in my early teens, I’ve gone back and re-listened to them time and time again. They just never get old for me.

Naturally, being a fan of their music I, like so many others, have a fascination with the band, their history and the mystical allure of the late lead singer Jim Morrison. A lot has been written about Morrison.

The stories surrounding their climb in popularity during the height of the 1960’s, the psychedelic lyrics, the concerts, Morrison’s love of poetry, his arrest and early death in Paris at the age of twenty-seven.

Fans will be familiar with all these and in the documentary When You’re Strange it recounts all of them again. And while they’re all just as riveting to hear as always, there’s not really anything new the film has to add about the band or Morrison. What makes the film a must see for fans however, is the inclusion of never before seen footage of Morrison.

The footage is so pristine and new looking, it took me a second to realize it wasn’t a reenactment, but it was in fact Morrison.

The film does do a nice job of not only focusing on the “wild” side of Morrison (which was my main problem with Oliver Stone’s 1991 film The Doors), but also on the artist and individual. His shyness, his love of words and his self-consciousness of his singing voice. Like any other human being, there were many shades to Jim and the quieter aspects to his personality usually gets overshadowed by the theatrical parts of his life.

The overall structure, the editing, Johnny Depp’s narration and the use of the Doors music all put together very effectively and should make an entertaining crash course for newer Doors fans. As for hardcore fans, the new footage of Morrison is the real selling point and it’s very worthwhile to see. Unfortunately, there’s really no new information here to learn about the Doors, but maybe at this point everything that could be told about them already has.

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