Only a complete simpleton would at this point in time argue Pink Floyd's The Wall isn't a classic album, the music is undeniably incredible and indeed one of the greatest records in rock history. Some, though not I, may even argue it was the high watermark for the legendary band as they finally exploded into epic rock opera territory with a double LP telling a distinct and clearly personal story. Where the need for commentary and discussion comes into play here is how necessary it was to turn such a dense and narrative heavy album into a film in the first place, especially since the film not unreasonably actually cuts out material from the album despite running an average hour and a half in length. The film has since its release only been a modest cult hit, developing a devoted following especially in recent years but being divisive and downright ignored by most upon its release. Still with Roger Waters writing the film itself, Alan Parker lending his customary insane visuals, illustrator and frequent Floyd collaborator Gerald Scarfe providing the animation and music industry legend Bob Geldof starring as Pink surely this movie couldn't have gone but so wrong? Well let's take am up against the wall look.
The film adheres strictly to the music and tells the tale of presumably autobiographic cult rocker Pink Floyd (Geldof) an emotionally stunted and disturbed drug addict on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Pink grew up under the reign of an overbearing single mother (his father died in the war), an oppressive regime of teachers and a total sense of isolation from other children which leads to his fractured mental state. Finally one night he snaps, attacks a groupie, decimates his hotel, shaves all the hair off his body and barricades himself in the room the night before the show. When his greedy manager (Bob Hoskins) finds him in a near catatonic state he forcibly revives him with uppers and forces him on stage causing Floyd to totally snap. He begins playing the part of a genocidal dictator and promotes views of hate and intolerance causing riots of hate crimes throughout England. He is eventually thrown in a mental asylum where he must either live out the rest of his life or confront and tear down the wall his childhood has caused him to build around himself.
I almost don't want to delve into the story itself, this is a classic album and its power and quality speaks for itself. The music is incredible, the lyrics powerful even more than thirty years later and its a thematically devastating and powerful story. I like so many others could not love the ALBUM more from how effectively and yet with so little information it builds the character of Pink, how gut wrenchingly it connects with the feeling of loneliness even when you're adored by millions and living the dream without being self pitying and over indulgent and I've always loved and defended how Pink's fate once his outer wall is brought down is never revealed. But if this was just essentially going to be an hour and a half music video of the whole album I'd want more or less nothing to do with it I have my own images of what it should look like in my head. So thankfully it's not. It goes above blandly portraying the story by also providing stark visuals and showing dramatized scenes from Roger Waters childhood that enrich and add to our preexisting knowledge of the story. The film is a powerful supplement to the album that also serves as a stand alone abstract film and musical and rather than trying to further cash in on the album's success actually tries to provide even more to it. This could have gone horribly wrong and is I think a little to abstract and reliant on the viewer being knowledgeable and well versed on the album but as a whole it ends up being a top form success aided by different interpretations of many of the songs, some insanely creative and stylized animated sequences and Geldof's ballsy and bare all performance. The end result is a passionate exploration further into the recesses of Water's and the rest of the artist's psyche that still holds up today.
I think the movie and album wonderfully exist separately and on their own terms and can be enjoyed individually each in their own right but nonetheless they strengthen each other in a wholly unique to create an ultimately stronger product together. Some highlights include the nightmarish vision of life during the Battle of Britain in the animated sequence accompanying "Goodbye Blue Sky", the children being fed into the societal machine in "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2", the visceral room trashing tantrum to "One of My Turns" and Hoskins Manager character getting him hauled from his comatose state onto the stage amid flashbacks to the album highlight "Comfortably Numb." If you're a fan of emotional and unique film making and Pink Floyd you need to see this and if you could take of leave these things than you don't it's that simple.