Jim Morrison's HWY - An American Pastoral

Jim Morrison the front man for the psychedelic rock outfit 'The Doors' had a deep mystical understanding of death which sprung from his first encounter with death as a child when he saw a truck full of Indians lying scattered along the highway ... bleeding to death ! His fascination with death reflected in his poetry and can be seen in 'HWY - The American Pastoral', a project he started in 1969.

Morrison financed the venture and formed his own production company in order to maintain complete control of the project. Paul Ferrara, Frank Lisciandro and Babe Hill assisted with the project.

Morrison played the main character, a hitchhiker turned killer/car thief. Morrison asked his friend, composer/pianist Fred Myrow, to select the soundtrack for the film.

Jim Morrison : The Indian & The Coyote

Like the man himself, HWY: An American Pastoral is complex and mysterious. He hits the road like Kerouac, wandering, searching for meaning.

Following is an excerpt from a HWY review by John Kolak ...

In comparative literature we are taught that nothing exists by itself, but only in comparison to something else. So the first clue as the movie opens is that Jim is in the desert, but we are shown a waterfall. So, desert represents death, water represents life, and the waterfall, the fountains of life. When we first see Jim, he is immersed in water, a symbol of the womb, and his emergence from the water represents birth. Tribal music here, contrasted to civilized music later, suggests the birth of a shaman.

We then see images of Jim basking in the joy of life, and then he undertakes a journey. One of the common complaints about the film are these long passages of shots of Jim's journey. There has been some comment that this is just Jim's working in the milieu of his time where these long passages were typical of art house cinema of the time. But it is more than that. The version of "2001 - A Space Odyssey" that was commonly shown was a shortened version. The first version released contained long, boring shots of the space ship traveling through space. Kubrick's intent was to illustrate the immensity of space and how long it takes to engage in space travel.

In "HWY," the lengthiness of the journey is also deliberate, but it serves multiple and different functions. The first clue is to get you to understand that this story is about a journey, so Jim had to make the journey passages long enough to make sure you got the point. Any shorter, and it would have looked like just another scene. More specifically, in artistic terms, it is about the hero's journey. Since the days of the story of Prometheus breaking on through to the other side to steal fire from the gods and bring it back to earth to benefit mankind, the genre of the hero's journey has always been about crossing the threshold to the divine and bringing back something for mankind. This is what Jim does when he breaks on through and brings his music and poetry back for our benefit.

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