Pink Floyd the Wall has been promoted to “Certified Weird” status. Comments have been closed; please post all new comments on the official entry.
DIRECTED BY: Alan Parker
FEATURING: Bob Geldof, Bob Hoskins, Jenny Wright
PLOT: A rock singer, “Pink,” isolates himself in a hotel room and reflects upon his life while
slipping further into drug addiction and madness. The film has little in the way of dialogue and is heavy on visual interpretations of Roger Waters lyrics for the 1979 double album of the same name. The metaphorical “wall” is constructed around the rock singer’s life separating him from the outside world and alone with his tortured thoughts and memories.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Possibly for one reason only: the fantastic and bizarre animation sequences rendered by British political caricaturist Gerald Scarfe. Although the sequences are relatively short, the horrific images blaze across the screen in such a haunting way that the impact makes up for the brevity.
COMMENTS: Watching, or listening, to Pink Floyd: The Wall is one miserable experience. All the key elements of a depressing film are on display: madness, alienation, the atrocities of war, mind-numbing drug addiction, infidelity, fascism…well, you get my drift. This is not an upbeat or fun movie by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, the film is constructed in such a skillful manner by director Alan Parker that it is hard not to justify its reputation as a work of art.
Upon the opening scene we see the protagonist rock star “Pink” (Bob Geldof) in his hotel room staring blankly at the television screen with a long burned out cigarette perched between his fingers. Pink is in this position and state of mind for many of his scenes. It is open to interpretation, but perhaps all of the scenes of the film are what is playing out in his unraveling mind. The images correlate to the lyrics of each song, and we start off things by learning of Pink’s father’s death in World War II. His bunker was blown to bits by an air raid bombardment. Pink never knew his father and it is clear that this had a major impact in his childhood, as evidenced by a scene where he is playing in a park as a young child and desperately tries clinging on to a hand of an unsuspecting and unwilling male father figure. As Pink grows up and goes to school he’s subjected to the harsh British educational system. (I’ve listened to enough British music [The Smiths, for example] to know that schooling in England back in the day was brutal). Pink is caught scribbling poetry into his notebook and is promptly ostracized and smacked on the knuckles by his teachers pointing stick. This gets him sent directly to the evil headmaster’s office. During this sequence, however, we are privy to a weird fantasy in Pink’s young mind: students, marching like mindless drones onto a conveyor belt and wearing creepy faceless masks, fall limp into a grinding machine which churns them out as strands of meat. Yet, rebellion and anarchy eventually take over the fantasy as students trash the school and set it on fire.
Now that the themes of war and education have been touched upon we can move on to another main component of the film: sex. Pink’s descent into madness is exacerbated by his wife’s infidelity. In an early scene, she strips in an unsuccessful attempt to seduce him; he only becomes annoyed that she is blocking the soccer game on TV. His lack of affection drives her away to the arms of another man. Sex seems to be a mere diversion for Pink, and one that he’s seldom interested in. Of course, being a rock star you will get your share of groupies; however, no girl could prepare for being alone with this guy. A female fan’s amazement at his array of guitars and vast bathtub quickly turns to fear as he trashes his hotel room in true rock star fervor, winging furniture and wine bottles in her direction.
Bob Geldof does an impeccable job as the deadened rock star. He has almost no lines of dialogue outside of screaming “stop!” or howling obscenities as he trashes his hotel room. Most of his lines are lip synched to Roger Waters lyrics. His empty stares and body language are all that is needed to make this a good performance. Geldof’s best scene is when he “transforms” himself by shaving off his body hair… eyebrows included. (This scene was culled directly from an incident involving former Floyd member Syd Barrett, who did this at a dinner party, apparently). It is very disconcerting to see a person without eyebrows, for some reason. By the end of the film Pink has morphed into a dictator performing for his captive audience/fascist regime, complete with a crossed hammer insignia in place of swastikas and arms struck in Naziesque poses. White supremacists were actually hired as extras for these scenes, adding to its already chaotic and anarchic nature.
Now that you have the gist of the film, I’ll state my case as to why this a weird movie… those animation sequences. All I can say is…wow! They are psychedelic in a nature, but bleak nonetheless. Warplanes turn into crosses. The Union Jack also becomes a bloody cross. Flowers that blatantly resemble genitalia writhe and twist for sexual dominance. Marching hammers goose-step like rhythmic soldiers. The coup-de-grace is the final animation sequence that portrays Pink on trial. Here we witness the judge as a talking anus with a scrotum for a chin; a former parochial teacher hanging by strings like a marionette; Pink’s mother transformed into a monstrous scorpion.
Scarfe’s animations are weird and amazing. The live action is the meat of the film and the animation is the pudding, but how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Pink Floyd fans are going to find ‘Pink Floyd: The Wall’ pretty cosmic; employing almost no dialogue, it uses fantasies, animation and assorted psychedelic froufrou to flesh out a rock album more enthusiastically than any film has since ‘Tommy’… [Alan Parker’s images are] nothing if not bold. These effects, while some are individually powerful, are dwarfed by the towering selfimportance of ‘The Wall’ and by its lack of focus.”–Janet Maslin, The New York Times (contemporaneous)