Dir: Alan Parker/Gerald Scarfe, 1982
Alan Parker’s film of the award winning, chart topping album is a strong, exciting and fascinating delve into self-destruction.
Pink (Bob Geldof) is a rock star. Drunken and drug addled, Pink now spends his time, alone, in a hotel room in a perpetual state of inertia.
With the telly running, he constantly stares at flickering screen showing The Dambusters on what seems to be an eternal loop.
Catatonic, the rock star thinks back to his early childhood, adolescence, marriage and eventual downfall.
Suffering complete breakdown, Pink transforms himself into a neo-Nazi, castigating everybody who is different.
Eventually, the desire to be free of his mental “wall” results in a “trial”, with the “wall” being torn down.
All of Pink’s thoughts, feelings and dreams are brought to life by Gerald Scarfe’s animation.
Both brilliant and horrifying, the animation sequences are the highlight of the film.
Coupled with Roger Waters’ music and lyrics, Pink Floyd The Wall is a masterpiece of rock opera.
To say Geldof isn’t an actor, he does surprisingly well at playing Pink, the burned out rock star.
With no lines as such to speak, the erstwhile Boomtown Rats frontman conveys every ounce of despondency with authenticity.
Twitching his face, and erupting with bouts of anger and rage, Geldof plays the role of the broken singer, superbly.
As is often the case with films, the director gets all the credit;in this case, Alan Parker. But, Parker doesn’t deserve as much credit as he gets. This is Scarfe’s and Waters’ show.
Waters’ lyrics perfectly capture the depression and sense of isolation that prevails in the anti-hero.
Because the animation is so good, I have to wonder whether the film would’ve been even better had they done away with the live action sequences and made it all Scarfe’s work.
The film has now gone on to become iconic with many of Gerald Scarfe’s animations becoming recognised symbols.
It is unfortunate, though, that some of the imagery has become symbols of hate. The famous walking hammers from the film and music video to Another Brick In The Wall (part 2) are often seen as the logo for real neo-Nazi’s, spouting hate and bigotry.
Both Scarfe and Waters deserve more respect for their work.
The film features many faces that would go on to become well known to the British public. Brenda Cowling has a small cameo, who would go on to play Mrs. Lipton in Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s upstairs/downstairs sitcom You Rang M’Lord. Bob Hoskins, who would later go on to even bigger worldwide fame, here is Pink’s manager. Gary Olsen of 2 Point 4 Children is a roadie. Joanne Whalley (the ex-Mrs. Val Kilmer) and Little Nell from The Rocky Horror Picture Show are groupies.
But, it is a heavy film. You do come out of it feeling drained and low. This is exactly what Waters was going for when he did the album. He succeeded there and, as the film’s screenwriter, succeeds here as well.
Like Ken Russell’s film adaptation of The Who’s rock opera, Tommy, there is very little dialogue to carry the film. The entire narrative is told by the music.
Interestingly, the music in the film is taken directly from the album. The majority of cinematic musicals, more often than not, rearrange the source material, but here they chose not to.
The original album was so perfect that to it would have been unwise for Waters to alter the original score.
Imaginative and bizarre, Pink Floyd The Wall is a master stroke of genius that Waters and Scarfe will forever be remembered for.
And it’s one hell of a legacy!