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Pink Floyd The Wall (1982)

July 28, 2008

Pink Floyd The Wall, Feature length music video? Bad acid trip? Good acid trip? The Wall is one of those interesting experiments where I can imagine many people walking away, shaking their head, and saying “What the hell was that?!?” It is not a traditional narrative film by any definition, and yet it is not without some power from it’s combination of images and music. It is difficult to define whether this is a film someone should check out or not, but it should mostly be based on your willingness to accept a movie that does not operate within the typical confines of standard cinema.

The backstory to this project was formed when rock group Pink Floyd was wrapping up a major US tour in the 1970s and lead singer Roger Waters felt disconnection and contempt for his audience, going so far as to spit on a fan during the tour’s final show. As a result of this experience, he conceived the concept album The Wall, a tale of isolation and the building of barriers between Waters and those around him. The album was later adapted into a major multimedia concert experience and finally, a film. Waters had originally wanted to film the concert, but director Alan Parker convinced him that that was a bad idea and instead pushed for an original film telling the story of the album in visuals. What emerged is an interesting collection of moments that do tell a tale of sorts, if a somewhat disjointed one.

The basic outline of the film, as far as I can tell, is this: Pink (Bob Geldof), a rock singer, has isolated himself in a hotel suite and is slowly going insane. He remembers moments of his childhood, his father’s perishing in World War II, his mother trying to fill the gaps, his education, etc. He later reminisces about his marriage and how he tries to push his wife away. He eventually snaps, trashing his hotel room and shaving off all his body hair in the process. When he is finally pulled out of his hotel room by his entourage, he envisions himself as a fascist dictator, bringing death and mayhem to all those around him.

The above description is one interpretation of The Wall, I am sure there are others. The film is very much a tale about cutting oneself off from the world, retreating into the individual until there is nothing left for the mind to feed on but your own paranoia and unhappiness. Much of this material resonates, giving us a glimpse at ourselves at times. Parker’s imagery, accompanied by animation by Gerald Scarfe, is surrealistic and difficult to penetrate at times, but The Wall eventually builds on you until you find yourself understanding more than you might think.

Of course, the centerpiece of the film is the music by Pink Floyd. The Wall is often referred to as their greatest album, and it works well as a complement to the visuals. The music replaces dialogue in telling the tale, although, as with many rock albums, some of the lyrics are open for interpretation and if you are unfamiliar with the material, The Wall might prove more difficult to follow.

Can I give The Wall a recommendation? To a certain extent, yes. It does have the ability to move you and some of the film’s message is powerful and insightful. At the same time, is it easy to follow and without confusion? Not at all, and many people are just not comfortable with that kind of film. I would say that Pink Floyd The Wall is an acquired taste that may or may not be suitable for your palette.

Comments

2 Responses to “Pink Floyd The Wall (1982)”

  1. Benjamin John Haigh on January 29th, 2009 10:34 am

    The Wall. I’m a fan. Was raised on Floyd and as a result have seen the film in question a few times. It’s a fans movie and nothing more that that I think. Watch it with someone who doesn’t know the band and you’ll see.

    I think… if you know the band history and in particular and the role Waters played creatively; then you can see what they were trying to do. To be fair to them, it was a huge idea.

    Unfortunately, imagery has become slicker and we are not as easily shocked, so unfortunately the horrors of war, alienation, drug use, sexual violence, and oppression doesn’t hit as hard.

    Still stunning visually, especially when high.
    BJH

  2. Benjamin John Haigh on January 29th, 2009 10:34 am

    The Wall. I’m a fan. Was raised on Floyd and as a result have seen the film in question a few times. It’s a fans movie and nothing more that that I think. Watch it with someone who doesn’t know the band and you’ll see.
    I think… if you know the band history and in particular and the role Waters played creatively; then you can see what they were trying to do. To be fair to them, it was a huge idea.
    Unfortunately, imagery has become slicker and we are not as easily shocked, so unfortunately the horrors of war, alienation, drug use, sexual violence, and oppression doesn’t hit as hard.
    Still stunning visually, especially when high.
    BJH

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