A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Pink Floyd: The Wall

September 9, 2011

Pink Floyd: The Wall

I was intimately familiar with the album this movie is based on long before I saw the film. Like most kids born after a certain time “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” was a kind of anthem for me during a certain part of my high-school years. I had The Wall as a two tape set if memory serves me right, and I listened to it incessantly on my walkman. (Yeah, I guess that dates me.) At one point in college, slightly before I finally saw this movie, I transcribed every word on the album from the tapes – including half heard spoken dialog – as something to do one night. When I saw the film at last I was utterly blown away, and even today I still find it mesmerizing and impressive.

The album is, of course, Roger Waters’ masterful rock opera about how difficult it is to be a rock star. I’ve always wondered to what extent the music is autobiographical. Right at the beginning he admonishes us “If you want to find out what’s behind these cold eyes/you’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise.” Then he proceeds to break down the character of the singer (named Pink Floyd strangely enough) and explore what makes him the way he is. One by one Waters examines the bricks that make up Pink’s wall.

There’s his sometimes indifferent and sometimes over controlling mother. The film ads more back-story for Pink’s father with a song not on the album called “When the Tigers Broke Free” that explains about the death of Pink’s father during World War II. There’s the British school system which tried to dehumanise and homogenise him. There’s the infidelity of his wife (brought on by his own detachment.) There’s the general stress of being a rock star on the road in America. And of course there is an awful lot of drug use to dull the pain.

Ultimately Pink becomes so detached and confused that he descends into a sort of fascist dream where he’s the leader of a neo-nazi regime. The implication is, I think, that in its extremity the walls we build between each other to deal with modern life allows us to dehumanise others to such a degree that it can result in reprehensible behavior towards our fellow man. The only hope, Waters seems to say, is to break down the walls.

What the film does is to take the music of the album and present it with visuals that complement it just about perfectly. It expands on the album and makes it a little more explicit, while at the same time adding some slightly unnecessary scenes of unrelated British riots (which rang a little too true after the events in Tottingham this last month.)

The brilliance of the film, in my opinion, lies in the way it is presented largely as flashback. We get to see Pink initially in his neo-Nazi skinhead appearance, and then the movie sets out to explain how he came to be in this state. We repeatedly come back to Pink in his devastated hotel room and over the course of the film we get to see how it got to be in the state it is in. I’ve always love non-linear storytelling, and it makes for a great hook to keep you invested in Pink’s story.

Of course there is the jaw-dropping fluid animation of long time Pink Floyd collaborator Gerald Scarfe. Throughout the film his nightmare imagery brings the more psychedelic portions, such as Pink’s insecurities, to the screen. In particular there is a lot of imagery casting the women in Pink’s life as predatory creatures that use their sexuality to dominate him. There’s also some great scenes of the titular wall forming and corrupting the peaceful English countryside, the unforgettable marching hammers which are the sign of Pink’s corrupt fascist nightmare. It all culminates in the Trial, where figures from Pink’s past berate him and he is sentenced by The Worm (a talking arse with a judge’s wig) to have his wall torn down, exposing him to his peers.

This movie is a a delirious fever dream. I’ve seen it innumerable times by now which is why my review might appear to be a little cerebral and analytical. In fact it is better to let the film wash over you, as I did the first few times. There is so much to absorb here, from the story, to the music to the vivid imagery. Bob Geldof as the adult pink is brilliant, so damaged and overcome by the excesses of his life. I get the impression that it was a brutal role to play and that Geldof really gave himself up to the part. His singing may not be great, but that doesn’t hurt hte movie any. It’s an overwhelming overdose of a film and I’m always willing to give myself up to it once again.

September 6, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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