Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982)

Pink Floyd: The Wall is one of the highest selling albums of all time and many claim it to be the Pink Floyd's best work. Every song on the album is memorable while being connected to tell a story...a sort of rock opera, if you will, and is also loosely based on the life of band member Roger Waters.

A classic album through and through, it was only natural that a screenplay was created to convert it for the big screen. Director Alan Parker, a man who has made some incredible films, agreed to take the difficult challenge of making a film of this caliber using all the music from the original album with some other reconstructed works by Waters and in my eyes, Parker was the right man for the job.

The end result is a dark story of one tortured soul who is on the edge of totally disconnecting himself from the world mentally and in the worst possible way. If you ask 10 different people to explain what this film is about, you will probably get 10 different explanations. Having seen this film many times, this review is based on my particluar explanation of the story.

The Wall begins with the fictional rock star Pink (played by Bob Geldolf and based on the late Syd Barrett - an original member of Pink Floyd who left the band due to a severe mental breakdown from a combination of both natural and drug-related causes) who has locked himself away in his hotel room and is in a wide-eyed trance. Pink begins having flashbacks of his youth including the death of his father in WWII, living with his overprotective mother and growing up without a sorely needed father figure.

After intercutting between some of Pink's bizarre fantasties, visually stimulating animation and scenes of Pink's isolation in his hotel room, more of Pink's life is explored. He remembers his bullying teachers in the school days of his adolescence and his position as an outcast in society.

The most recent development that has put Pink on the verge on insanity is his failed relationship with his wife. Pink had been too withdrawn from her during their marriage, so much so that she decides to have an affair with another man. Once he confirms this infidelity, it completes his downward spiral into madness.

The film uses each of Pink's troubled memories in life to build a mental "wall" from reality and the rest of society. After bringing a groupie (played by the beautiful Jenny Wright of Near Dark, a ETMC favorite) in an act of sexual revenge, he retreats once more into his own world. Then he finally goes off the edge by trashing his apartment and almost hurting her in the process.

Now way past the point of no return, it is implied that Pink indulges in a large amount of drugs before shaving nearly all of the hair from his body, scarring himself on some body parts in the process. Finally, hotel management, his tour manager (played by Bob Hopkins) and security break down the door to his hotel and attempt to revive him from an obvious overdose.

This concludes the real narrartive of the film. Pink drifts back into his dream world of being a dictator of facism, where he takes control of the world and does away with those who do not meet his requirements. It is imagery that is obviously based upon the beliefs of Hitler and his Third Reich. This means that his psyche has regressed to being the leader of a world that began the pain in his life in the vain of Hitler and Nazism which began the second World War. The very war that ended his father's life. While this is a horrifying thought, it is Pink's ultimate escape as his "wall" is now complete.

The last few scenes in the film deal with Pink in an animated courtroom where his life is on trial. In this trail, he is confronted and judged by characters throughout his life including his mother and wife. Each instance of Pink's pain we have witnessed is a brick that builds his "wall". The judge of this fictional court rules that this "wall" must be torn down immediately and then followed by a shot of a large brick wall exploding.

My take is that the bricks creating the "wall" Pink had been forming in his mind throughout his life has been broken down due to the fact that he has completely gone insane. The isolation and pain has won in the war over his perceived reality. Others have told me that the scene symbolizes Pink succumbing to his overdose or that Pink is coming off his heavy drug trip and is now forced to face his harsh reality once again. Like I said before, you ask 10 different people and you will get 10 different interpretations.

As I have said in a recent post, Pink Floyd is my favorite band of all time. Their songs are almost other-wordly and no one has successfully produced anything from an experimental level except for maybe the Beatles' later works. While they are classified as Rock, I view them as being in their own genre. I saw this film close to 20 years go when I was relatively new to their music and was shocked by what I was witnessing. Having known nothing about the film version of The Wall, I was expecting perhaps a biopic. I was so lost in the film's message, that I had to watch it a couple more times to gain a grasp of the narrative.

My peronsal favorite scenes of the film, besides hearing the album's songs fleshed out on film include: the animated scene for Empty Spaces/What Shall We Do Now (the latter song I wish was on the original album), the extended opening shot panning the hotel's floor to Pink's room door, Pink destroying his apartment in a psychotic rage, the scene in the pool for The Thin Ice and the animated scene for Goodbye Blue Sky. These are just a few I am naming off the top of my head, but there are many more.

This film is definitelty not a film you want to take in if you are feeling depressed or facing a crisis because it is not feel good cinema at all. But the cinematography, wardrobe for the WWII scenes, the set pieces, acting (even though there is little to no dialogue), and animation is in a league of its own. I think the best phrase to explain the greatness of The Wall is "beautifully haunting". There is so much graphic as well as sexual imagery and visual metaphors that place it on an experimental and other-wordly level just like the band and album's source material.

Trust me when I say that even by telling you the story in this review, I have not spoiled it because you need to see it for yourself to develop your own interpretation. Not to sound cliche but the film is very, very deep. The importance of the messaging and imaging has to be experienced first-hand to understand its true brillance. There is certainly no other flick like Pink Floyd: The Wall that you will see anytime soon.

If you have not seen this yet, I highly encourage you to do so For those who have seen this film, I welcome you to discuss your thoughts on the film in the Comments section.

ETMC Extras:

- If you get the DVD, you should watch the extras especially the interviews with Roger Waters. Waters had a major falling out with the band, especially with Gilmour, leading to him leaving and pursuing his solo efforts. The original band members sans Syd Barrett reunited after over 20 years at Live 8 in Philadelphia for one night only in 2005 and went their separate ways again shortly afterward. In these interviews, you hear Waters spout his venom towards the rest of the band, even stabbing me in the heart when he states the that band does not belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The interview was conducted around '99-'00 and he still seemed to retain the same level of bitterness that led to his departure from the rest of the band members many years before this interview was conducted.


The Man With No Name said...

Woah excellent write up! I can tell you love the film. I too fell in love with the film when I first saw it. Each viewing reveals more and more spiritual angst and philosophical numbness. I am now one of the lucky few who has tickets to Roger Waters: The Wall this year. So hopefully seeing the live incarnation will add another layer.

Geof said...

Thanks Nick! Yes I really feel this is a film that takes the viewer on a strange and emotional journey into one's fragile psyche.

And I will be going to see Waters and The Wall in Philly coming up in November. If you are going before that, please let me know how it is...which I am sure is godly. Is Becky going with you?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Been a while since I watched this. I think excessive drinking or drugs help, too.
I am not a Floyd fan, but I respect what they have accomplished and the band deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Then again, so does Rush, but they will never make it as the owner HATES the band!

Chuck said...

I fuckin' love this movie! It made my Dirty Dozen Movie Review back in June. I have watched it countless times. I still remember the day this album came out. I locked myself in my apartment, put the record on the turntable (remember those things?), put on the giant headphones, got "other worldly" and spent the entire day listening, singing, memorizing the words and pictures of the album cover...by the end of the day (never even knew it got dark out) I felt like I had been in an out of body experience. Floyd and Zeppelin are the two greatest bands of all time for different reasons. The Wall stands alone and will stand the test of time. It was brilliant. Geof, I agree with your entire post. I saw Waters several years ago at Texas Stadium and it was an awesome show. Thanks for a great post and bringing back some memories.

Steve G. said...

Awesome review! I love Pink Floyd's music, which is somewhat odd, since I've never smoked pot and don't ever plan on doing so.

I think from start to finish, The Wall is their best album. However, Wish You Were Here is still my favorite Pink Floyd song by far.

FilmFather said...

Great review, Geof. You hit all the key points right on the head. The Wall is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I watched the movie countless times during college. I should bust out my VHS copy in the oversized box (LOL) and check it out again...especially since I too will be catching Roger Waters this fall during his Wall anniversary tour.

In terms of Waters and Gilmour feuding, a lot of the venom must have died down between them...did you hear that they recently shared a stage at some little London gig, and that Gilmour will make a surprise appearance during one of Waters' Wall shows to perform "Comfortably Numb" with him? Awe-SOME!

Copyboy said...

I remember seeing the video a long ass time ago. The kids with no faces scared the crap out of me.

Cheeseboy said...

How the hell did I miss this post?! Pink Floyd is also my favorite band of all time, and THIS is my favorite album of theirs. (although I love them all, even their undervalued early stuff).

People say that Zepplin was the most influential band of all time, but I think Floyd is up there with them. You can hear so many Floyd type sounds out there today - especially in today's indie music.

BTW, I think the closest album that Floyd released to this was The Final Cut. I love that album too and it is so underrated. I love everything that is Roger Waters heavy, although Gilmore was the most talented of the band members.

9334efd0-5a4a-11e0-a3de-000bcdcb471e said...

love the film has so much meaning, love pink floyd ( THANKS DAD )i still remember the first time i saw it think i was bout 8/9 (not that long ago) and thought it was amazing then when i didnt understand it.
dont know much about the band know they have had a few "member" changes and stuff but hey they have great songs with real meaning- some are a bit spacey(blame LSD)

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