Pink Floyd – The Wall is unlike any film I’ve ever seen. It can be seen as a long, elaborate music video, a daring rock opera or a stand alone story set to music. There is no concert footage or time in the recording studio shown. The film keeps rooted in the depths artist’s mind. It boasts unforgettable images and ideas that flow and bring new dimensions to the music.
The film unfolds like a music video for an entire album. We hear tracks from The Wall and images tell a stronger story than the album alone. We watch a boy, Pink (Kevin McKeon), go from an idealistic youth to a disillusioned and isolated young man (Bob Geldof). All the pain and confusion in his life, from family, school and women turn Pink into a destructive rock star, igniting a riot where similar young men take their aggressions out on a society that failed them.
The animation sequences in the film are haunting and add wonderfully surreal element to the film. Many times, the animation depicts something so implausible and organically weird that film at the time could not do the image justice. Flowers interact and transform, showing a struggle between the sexes. The wall sweeps across the land, destroying a church. A face stretches out of the wall, screaming. And a whole army of red and black hammers march menacingly. My favorite animated scene, the trial, depicts the mother, wife and judge in such grotesque manners, they could bring a lasting psychological impression on any viewer.
One of my favorite images is during the hit song Another Brick in the Wall. We see school children lined up within school walls that look like a prison. They march in rhythm into a machine, on the other side they are sitting at a desk with a nondescript face that looks like a pink plastic mask. It depicts the British school system as an assembly line, churning out disciplined children who lack any creativity and settle for a menial existence. Or they just become war fodder.
Pink’s relationship with women is particularly interesting. With his father a casualty of war, he becomes the closest man in his mother’s life, and in turn, she becomes over-protective. There is a bond, that seems longing and confused that gets shaken when Pink marries. However, with his romances there seems an inability to communicate, a longing she has that he doesn’t know how to fulfill. When women betray him, it leaves him even more alone and hurt, that contributes to his depression and isolation.
This film has to be at the top of any classic music lover’s list. It may not be the most fun film. It’s heavy themes of isolation, abandonment, war, sex and a less than glamorous rockstar lifestyle can be a real downer, but very thought provoking. Within the serious rock/fiction genre, this is the best.
“Is there anybody out there?”