Pink Floyd: The Wall
Bob Geldof, Christine Hargreaves, James Laurenson, Eleanor David
More Making Of Pink Floyd: The Wall
In 1981, MGM released "Pennies From Heaven", a dark musical drama with violence, sex and rough language. Then, in 1982, another release from the house of Leo The Lion came along to make "Pennies From Heaven" seem like "Singin' In The Rain" by comparison.
Hold on to your swivel chair, because we're about to take a freaked-out ride into the mind of a musician.
We're gliding down a perfect white hallway. A maid is vacuuming. Suddenly, the screen goes black. The titles flash on-screen in a scrawl the color of a spurting artery. A lantern is lit. A man...Nay, a soldier (Laurenson) lights a cigarette.
"It was just before dawn..."
The soldier loads his gun. Many years later, listening to the same songs this soldier did, a scruffy-looking man stares ahead at the TV, his own cigarette tipped with ash. His hotel room is locked, the maid knocking away. The unlocking of the room's door is like that of an arena's doors. All of a sudden, World War II and 1982 meet in the hotel man's addled mind. This man is Pink (Geldof). He's a rock star and every night he performs is a mass for his fans. To them, he's a prophet. To himself, he's like Hitler.
"So you thought you might like to go to the show...
To feel the warmth, the confusion, the space cadet glow."
He'll have none of that. Pink is daring his audience to see his truth. For him, rock isn't religion...It's war, like the soldier before him. The shrapnel of a bunker explosion is juxtaposed with a quiet England day. A mother rests in her yard, her baby in a nearby carraige.
"Mother loves her baby...
Daddy loves you, too".
Pink, in the modern day, imagines his suite's pool colored in blood. We see that the soldier was his father. We see his mother praying. We see the first frazzled nerve exposed. Walking the playground, little Pink (Bingham) sees kids with their fathers. He realizes he's missing a certain love, lonely as he swings. At home, eating jam and bread while reading the paper, little Pink ascends the staircase to look at his father's war uniform.
"Kind old King George sent Mother a note."
That note certified his father's death. Little Pink dresses up in his father's uniform. In an animated sequence, a dove becomes a hawk of steel, then transforms back to float above the graves of dead soldiers. Back in Pink's past, young Pink (McKeon) sets a bullet on a train track. It explodes as Pink sees hands sticking out of the train. These trains appear to be headed for a dangerous place...SCHOOL. Belittled by a teacher (Alex McAvoy) who hates his poems, staring down spankings, feeling like going through a mind grinder. Sing it with me now and let them hear you in the rafters...
"We don't need no education...
We don't need no thought control."
FLASHPOINT! School destruction...Who hasn't wanted to do this? Into the modern day again, Pink calls someone...Someone he dreams of...His wife (David).
"Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb?"
His wife appears both in his youth and his modernity. Young Pink grows up and marries. It becomes almost Oedipal, as Pink wants his wife to give him the love he never got from his Mom. It doesn't happen and they drift apart. Pink travels the world with his manager (Hoskins) while his wife goes to peace rallies and eventually seeks the warmth of a lover (James Hazeldine). In another animated sequence, flowers cross-pollinate, eventually gaining a death-like appearance.
Death...Death becomes destruction, becomes sex, becomes violence, becomes THE WALL. The protective cocoon of a rock star, The Wall insulates a musician from the outside world. The Wall is full of yes-men, dealers and pimps who will serve your every purpose. The Wall will prevent you from seeing who you truly are.
Glass breaks in a robbery attempt seemingly unrelated to the plot, yet it makes sense. The chaos on the outside is like the chaos on Pink's insides...bleak and disturbing as his father's death. Gears switched again, we see Pink enjoying the rocker's life. Women, cars, champagne, rocket fuel...Happy Days, or are they? A groupie (Wright) comes to Pink's room. She looks around as he watches a war movie. She wants to help him, but he's zoning. She tries arousing him, but there's no hope in sight.
All of a sudden, Pink snaps and destruction reigns again. TVs are kicked in. Tables are upturned. Food is thrown. Paintings are wrecked. Shutters are pulled off their rods. Glass breaks. Pink's hand is cut. In the aftermath, Pink floats between reality and fantasy. Floating and bleeding, he sees his wife cheating. The blurring furthers as his wife becomes an animated demon. In sudden cuts, everything we previously saw becomes the same. Sex...Death...Music...School...Riches.
"You were all just bricks in the wall."
Now Pink stands at The Wall, yearning to break free. He's trapped, though and the end is near. As a final message to the world, he turns the wrecked room into a Pop Art suicide note. Covering his chest in shaving cream, he cuts up, then down. Bloodying his chest, he now goes for a newly installed TV. As he begins his mental death march, he punches at the remote control the same way he punched at the telephone. Neither worked...Nothing works in Pink's life.
Now, he's alternating past and present, wandering a wind-swept landscape. The bunker his father died in becomes a room full of beds. Young Pink then finds a crazed man with a book of poems. Wandering further, he finds dead soldiers. Finally, young Pink stares at old Pink and walks away, seemingly ashamed of what he's become. Now the soldiers are returning home, yet young Pink is still bereft of love. He foolishly looks for his father, but doesn't find him. As everybody around him sings for the soldiers, young Pink finds a TV. We fade to the modern day. Pink's manager and crew find him and try to rescue him, but it's too late.
The occasional flash of lucidity means nothing. The end has come....Or has it? In his mind, Pink returns to the Hitler theme and he's going full-tilt boogie with it. The swastika becomes two hammers. Black dogs on leashes are patrolling the rows. This black mass starts out as a ceremony from an acid-spewing Hell and spirals further into the dark from there. To the cheers of the audience, people Pink disapproves of (Gays, blacks, Jews) are dragged out and beaten. The crossing of arms is a Sieg Heil for the go-go 80s, and Pink is Der Fuhrer. The violence spills into the streets. Minorities are beaten. Women are raped. The suburbs are this close to becoming concentration camps. Animated hammers are marching, bringing death and destruction to all who cross their path. Pink has flown off into the wild black yonder and now is looking at his own bad self...His literal bad self.
We're now in a bathroom but we don't know whether this is reality or fantasy. A security guard washes his hands. In a stall, Pink is reading his poems. In his mind and in animation, a trial awaits him. Simply because he wants to break free, he's put to death, but not before the parade of witnesses come along. His teacher cries against him. His wife beats him. His mother suffocates him. His manager...his groupies...Everybody he's ever touched calls for his death. In a final warp-speed montage, Pink's life replays before his eyes as the jury of his life cries out...
"TEAR DOWN THE WALL!
TEAR DOWN THE WALL!
TEAR DOWN THE WALL!"
In the end, all that remains are the bricks. They are picked up by young children. May they never become rock stars.
First off... Yes, this is an 80s movie, although the album was released in the '70s. It came out in 1982, and what a year that was for movies. This was one of the best.
This movie is graphic, unflinching, neurotic, psychotic and terrific. The combined forces of director Parker and animator Gerald Scarfe bring Pink Floyd's classic album to brutal life. If this is what rockers are really like, I'm glad that I have a lousy singing voice and I'm happy that I can't even play a kazoo. I couldn't stand the kind of pressure Pink is under in this movie. Much like 1983's "Scarface", this movie tells the tale of a man who had it all and didn't care who he stepped on to get it and likewise, it told of a downfall that can be caused when you cut yourself off from those who love you and want to help you, even if it's only for a few hours.
I can find no fault with this movie (except for the feelings about war that are expressed, but music is a liberal's game, so I, a conservative, might as well live with it).
In a final note: Alan Parker, if you're reading this, I believe that this is your best movie of the 80s. I know it was tough for you to work on this movie, but you did a bang-up job.
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