Pink Floyd The Wall

Directed by Alan Parker


As an album, Pink Floyd’s "The Wall" thrust on the music world an opus with the towering angst of a burnt-out rock star cursing his environment for causing him to build a "wall" against it and its tortures, both trivial and relevant.

Now, the film version provides a backdrop for the popular album as the literal adaptation by director Alan Parker assaults the senses by entering the mind of a character driven to the border between genius and madness by the pressures of reality.

Except for substituting "When the Tigers Broke Free" for "Hey You," the album’s material is complete. Many of the tracks have been reworked, a tad slower and much richer than the originals, revealing all the nuances that the film’s crisp sound uncovers.

Roger Waters, bass player for Pink Floyd as well as the film’s maestro, knew exactly how his audience would react toward his film even as he designed the poster art, which offers vivid snatches of several scenes scattered around the autistic main character. He is right: one doesn’t remember the film as a whole so much as one is more inclined to remember a bombastic series of vignettes that have somehow surrounded Pink (played by Bob Geldof, lead singer of the Boomtown Rats).

The images, however, do reflect a kind of demented poetry to them. Blood, whether it’s dripping into a pool or a sink full of shaving cream, looks exquisite on film, just as light in the form of a match and a fluorescent bulb can appear to bring warmth as well as an oppressive glare to different scenes.

Reviewing "The Wall" is entirely different from reviewing other movies made from albums, like "Quadrophenia" or "Sgt. Pepper," because "The Wall" is meant as a piece of didactic art as opposed to a conventional rendition of an album, explaining the album’s concept and themes rather than attempt to dramatize the 1.

The universal themes of love, sex, war and oppression link each scene as Pink attempts to provide some sort of rationale for his world. In several scenes one can almost hear Waters describing how he wants the scene shot in order to bring about this or that type of symbolism.

"In the lyrics it says ‘his fat and psychopathic wife," Waters might have explained to Parker, "but that’s just his warped perception of her. Actually, she is just an average wife who uses her stern facade to instill in him the perfect behavior he lacks. Get it? Okay, let’s shoot it from the ground looking up so she looks bigger than life and gives her a little more respect."

"The Wall" as a story is so lyrically tight that the album by contrast can’t be pinned down to an examination of definite meanings. The film maintains this cornucopia of interpretations by painting numerous layers through images that sometimes flow, sometimes collide with each other. For example, Gerald Scarfe’s animations can metamorphose a dove into a symbol of Nazi Germany, the Royal Air Force and finally the ruins of England, reversing any Phoenix myths.

Scarfe also triumphs with the visual accompaniment to the lengthened version of "Empty Spaces" as the path of "Shooting superstars" is sarcastically examined. And a tender love scene between two flowers erupts into a violent rape as pistil and stamen battle each other mercilessly.

The central point of the film is that Waters, or any other rock star, has the ability to become a fascist dictator in relatively the same kind of war that destroyed his father, the cornerstone of his wall. And that rock and roll has become a religion (or Reich) that has the same hierarchy and rituals as a socialistic society. The audience, however, is oblivious to it all, even as it enjoys it, and has for thirty some years.

"The Wall" has the potential to be either a depressing hour-and-a-half of celluloid or a brilliantly colored, insightful tool to see just how far we will let out entertainers rule our lives, and vice versa. As I stepped out of the theater after viewing the film, one teenage girl remarked to her friends that it was the dumbest movie she had seen since "Altered States." Ironically, she is the audience that Waters aimed the film at.