My review of PINK FLOYD THE WALL (Movie)
Pink Floyd: The Wall
Columbia Music Video, 1982
Screenplay by Roger Waters, DVD produced by James Gutherie. 95 minutes
Pink Floyd: The Wall is a darkly surreal, brilliant movie combining the talents of filmmaker Alan Parker and Pink Floyd’s songwriter, Roger Waters. It’s also a semi-autobiographical story about the character of Pink Floyd (played by Bob Geldof, the lead singer of The Boomtown Rats), loosely based on Roger Waters’ life.
(Bob Geldof as Pink)
The story begins as superstar rock ‘n’ roller Pink sits locked in his hotel room in Los Angeles. Too many shows, too much dope, too much applause, too much lingering pain: the result is a burned-out basket case.
Pink sits in front of a television set, watching an old war movie. He ventures into his painful childhood memories, each a “brick” in the wall he has slowly built around his feelings. He remembers his father being killed in World War II at Anzio.
Successful rocker Pink has been wobbling “on the thin ice of modern life” (a line from the song “Thin Ice”). His life is bleak, with a deceased father absent from his life, an overprotective mother and a sadistic schoolmaster. The wartime blitz in England only added to the torture of growing up. He becomes a neurotic mess. All of this costs him his marriage, his sanity – and nearly his life (in a bizarre suicide-attempt scene).
The movie’s climax features Pink slowly withdrawing from the real world and slipping further into his nightmare as he imagine himself as an unfeeling demagogue. Pink and his group impersonate a fascist band that demonstrates their power over an unthinking, blitzed-on-drugs audience.
The film’s most bizarre scene is “The Trial” in which the very people who contributed to the building of Pink’s wall (mostly his mother, father, schoolteacher, and wife) come forward and testify against him.
Pink is forced to break down his wall of self-protection and show his true feelings. The film concludes with the song “Outside The Wall,” which reveals the fragile side of Pink.
Pink Floyd: The Wall is told simply with the music of Pink Floyd, images and special effects. There is no conventional dialogue to advance the plot. The absence of dialogue is very effective and the Dolby sound system does the film justice.
Some people may not consider Pink Floyd’s music their cup of tea. But when combined with Gerald Scarfe’s animation, the movie should intrigue even non-Floyd fans. Jeffrey Lyons of Sneak Previews liked the movie and he doesn’t own any Pink Floyd records or intend to go out and buy their music.
This is Bob Geldof’s first movie and he fills the role convincingly. He makes the character real, a musician with a sensitive soul, being battered by society at every turn and then retreating into his own fantasy world.
Alan Parker, who directed such movies as Midnight Express, Fame, and Shoot the Moon, chalked up another masterpiece, and a very dark masterpiece at that. There are over thirty songs in the movie, with three songs created especially for the film.
Gerald Scarfe’s animation is breathtaking. One of the eeriest moments occurs during the song, “Goodbye Blue Skies,” when a British flag becomes a giant grave-marker/cross with blood slowly trickling down, courtesy of Scarfe’s animation. Wild and haunting, this is a movie you won’t soon forget.
The deluxe DVD features The Other Side of the Wall, a 25-minute documentary about the making of the movie, with commentary provided by Roger Waters and Gerald Scarfe, Alan Parker, Peter Biziou, Alan Marhsall, and James Gutherie.