For starters, I have been a massive Pink Floyd fan since high school and although I know The Wall is one of their best-selling and most highly regarded albums, to me it has always been one of their least interesting efforts. That’s not to say I have ever disliked it, but next to the likes of other big albums in their discography like The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here (my favourite of theirs), it still sounds highly underwhelming because too much of it seemed like meaningless filler and the occasional great song comes then and there. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t really loved a Floyd album after Animals because it almost felt to me as if Roger Waters was wearing the Floyd name to back up his solo efforts and it leaves everyone else feeling suffocated. So what’s to be said about a film based around said album, written by Roger Waters?
The album is a rock opera that centers around abandonment and isolation, and this film explores the same ideas – all centered around the growth of a troubled rock star named Pink. He shows no emotion in spite of the fame he has acquired, on the count that his apparent depression and alienation from people around him has only left him behind a metaphorical “wall.” As we explore Pink’s life as a child and an adult, we see what has resulted in forming the stoic state we see him living in as he tries to break free. It isn’t a perfect album in my eyes, but when the film plays everything simple like the best moments of the album, it’s fantastic – and when it doesn’t, it becomes more politically radical and even to the point it even turns into another wall of self-pity which is how I’ve always considered the album to be as a whole.
If it were any surprise, the animation is absolutely spectacular. Looking at how the imagery ties together with the metaphorical lyrics, it helps in creating a psychedelic experience that almost parallels the animation of Terry Gilliam from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but mixed together with the music it almost plays like a rock opera set against Fantasia. It isn’t perfect, because the most heavy-handed lyrics make for equally heavy-handed symbolism – but there’s another experience it creates it becomes easy to forgive. However, the fact that these moments overpower the live action bits which are oftentimes quite dull only sets up what’s wrong with the narrative; it still feels rather jagged. But like the album, it also feels somewhat repetitive especially in the first disc, highlighting how tedious The Wall can be both to watch or to listen to.
My biggest problem with The Wall as an album was that it always seemed incredibly self-indulgent to the point it feels bloated. It feels more like an effort that came purely out of Roger Waters than it does Floyd as a whole, and at its worst it only ever came off to me as meaningless whining. But it doesn’t ever land as much as it should at the same time because I feel like these are ideas that Pink Floyd had already done in the past, in far better ways. It never seemed to go anywhere, just as Floyd did when Roger Waters took this much control over the other band members, thus limiting the capacity of the compositions of David Gilmour or Richard Wright. I know already that he was their conceptual leader after the departure of Syd Barrett, but his demands seem to suffocate everyone else rather than lead them all down a pathway to success.
Where does the film stack up all of its best moments? Like the album itself, all the best moments of the film come by depending on what is set together with the scene, because “Another Brick in the Wall” and “Comfortably Numb” have excellent sequences, but mostly because they just happen to be the best songs on the album as a whole. Other than that, these also are the moments where the album ever finds itself at its most psychologically complex, because the production and the songwriting finds themselves levelled out to have as much power as each other. Amidst the anger from the heavy-handed symbolism we have excellent music coming in to create a perfect balance but it’s easy enough to say as a big Pink Floyd fan. It isn’t perfect, but the way in which certain sequences match up to the music is certainly enough to catch the eye.
I do remember loving Pink Floyd – The Wall upon my first exposure because at the time I was only an outsider to Floyd. But quickly enough after listening to many of their pre-Animals work, even trying to listen to The Wall for my first time was incredibly difficult. It was difficult enough on the count that it has an excellent song then and there with “Another Brick in the Wall” and “Comfortably Numb,” and at its worst it just becomes a self-pitying bore that repeats itself so frequently. It wasn’t ever a bad album to me, but if only it had more songs like the aforementioned then it would easily have been one of my favourite Floyd albums. But I think the worst part is that we never are given a sequence for “Hey You,” which is yet another one of the best songs on the entire album. I only wish that Alan Parker established The Wall to be more focused and kept simple rather than angsty, because that’s where Pink Floyd were always at their most compelling.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via MGM/UA.
Directed by Alan Parker
Screenplay by Roger Waters, from The Wall by Pink Floyd
Produced by Alan Marshall
Starring Bob Geldof, Bob Hoskins
Release Year: 1982
Running Time: 95 minutes