Feeling alienated? Well, by the end of watching this, the chances are you will be, at least that’s the idea. When Pink Floyd were touring their latest album Animals in 1977, front man Roger Waters became enraged with members of the audience who seemed more intent with screaming and shouting than actually enjoying the music; this lead to him spit in the face of a member of the audience, and, the birth of an idea for their next album. The Wall was born, a double-length concept album that was semi-autobiographical from its primary creator, Roger Waters.
The movie adaptation was originally released in 1982, following a period of the touring of the record in its entirety, in which the band put on a gigantic and expensive visual production; such was the cost of the show that it was only performed in a handful of major cities around the world; all this happened in the space of three years from the album’s release in 1979.
During this period, Waters had forced his way into the driver’s seat of the band, creating stress on the group, leading to the controversial departure of keyboardist, Rick Wright and in the years following, the departure of Waters himself. There’s no denying that he’s all over this production as well, as Waters is in charge of the screen play and the album is even credited ‘by Roger Waters’ during the opening credits; the only thing missing is Roger himself having the starring roll; instead, however, we get Bob Geldof who plays a respectable role as the story’s protagonist, Pink.
The film takes on an interesting mode of story telling as there is virtually no dialogue present, instead the music and visual imagery are left to do the talking. This works wonderfully, providing an eerie atmosphere throughout and allowing the artistic elements of the scenery and music to thrive. The plot, however, is at times a difficult one to follow because of this.
The original storyline tells of a burned-out rock star know as Pink who endures a troubled childhood haunted by the loss of his father in the second world war before he was born. Pink goes through a troubled period with his love life, where the people around him and time under the spotlight, lead him to gradually build a wall between himself and the outside world. From here he feels himself go insane, driven mad by the feeling of being alone, eventually he becomes a fascist dictator before the pressure amounts up and the wall falls down and the story ends sort of happily with Pink being reunited with the outside world.
The music and imagery tells the story well, yet at times fails to fully explain what’s going on, for example how did Pink suddenly become a rock star and a Hitler-like dictator, and has he really or is it all inside his head? This can lead to the plot becoming confusing at times; especially if you’ve never heard the album before or have know knowledge of its background prior to watching the movie.
One of the most interesting sides to this movie is that all the songs we hear have been re-recorded and re-arranged, which comes with some good and bad points. On the plus side, we get a studio version of What Shall We Do Now? which was dropped from the original record, we get a version of When the Tigers Broke Free which was also not on the original album but would feature on the follow-up The Final Cut, and viewers are treated to extended versions of tracks such as Mother and Outside the Wall; it’s also nice to hear Geldof putting his own slant on the two part In the Flesh. The downside is that some tracks don’t benefit from the new edits such asRun Like Hell which becomes significantly shorter and Hey You which is dropped completely. None of this would matter if the film didn’t rely so much on the music, which provides the only sound and dominant form of storytelling due to the lack of dialogue.
Perhaps the film’s greatest achievement belongs to that of Gerald Scarfe’s artwork and animation. The classic incarnations of characters such as the teacher and the judge appeared within the artwork of the original album, but here they appear in their full glory. Particular highlights include the war scene accompanying Goodbye Blue Sky and the grand finale in the scene that portraysThe Trial. In the former, Scarfe creates powerful images of the fallen soldiers and the power of Nazi Germany, whereas in the latter we see all the characters come together in perhaps the film’s most visually impressive moment before the collapse of the wall.
The colourful animation coexists with the human cast. It is here where we see the life of Pink unfold from a young child looking for his father, to the adolescent who begins the building of the wall after feeling the wrath of the teacher.
One of the most thought-provoking scenes is where the second version of Pink meets his future self in all his insanity; it asks the audience what would their past self think if they could see them now?
From the opening scene, the camera drifts slowly down a bleak hotel corridor, passing a cleaner before we enter Pink’s dark room where he sits staring blankly into the television set. In fact, the blank stare becomes the default expression from Geldof until the moment where he completely loses his marbles and throws a TV through his hotel window; and of course when he becomes a fascist dictator. Apart from that, the grown up version of Pink seems forever encased within his own thoughts, trapped within the wall around him.
In the end we have a great film that succeeds in many ways, but is not without its flaws. Fans of the album should love this, but newcomers are best starting with the original record first. The highlight here is the animation which gives this film and the music the character it deserves. For some though, the story may become lost in translation and lead to a general alienation of the audience…wait, isn’t that the whole idea?
Special limited edition packaging and a movie poster, on the disc is a documentary of the making of the film (25mins), a running commentary from Roger Waters and Gerald Scarfe, a documentary containing interviews with Roger Waters and others (45mins), trailers/stills and music videos taken out of the original film.
Reviewed by Daniel Aston 14/02/2010