Saturday, October 01, 2011

movie review of Pink Floyd - The Wall

In spite of Pink Floyd's reputation, don't come into this movie looking for escape. While some of the film's animation can not be beat, newer movies with lots of random “I know that actor/actress” associations are better for distracting the mind.

The Wall is a journey into the darker sides of society. It shows us Pink, a rock-star who is disillusioned with everything our society has to offer and represses all desire for human connection. The cycle of disillusionment, alienation, and oppression unfolds.

The movie begins by contrasting an audience coming to see Pink in concert with images of soldiers in WWI. This could be the first anti-movie movie. Mass media brainwashes into conformity as much as the army indoctrinates soldiers.

The movie then takes us through the chronology of Pink's life. The death of his father in battle leaves a big gap in his family life and also a distrust of government, which he represses in order to fit in with other boys his age.

In one scene, a young Pink finds his daddy's military uniform one day, tries it on, and salutes his image in the mirror, as the soundtrack plays When the Tigers Broke Free:

It was just before dawn
One miserable morning in black 'forty four.
When the forward commander
Was told to sit tight
When he asked that his men be withdrawn.
And the Anzio bridgehead
Was held for the price
Of a few hundred ordinary lives.

They were all left behind,
Most of them dead,
The rest of them dying.
And that's how the High Command
Took my daddy from me.

Next comes education. A particularly harsh schoolmaster repeatedly belittles Pink in front of the class, which participates in his ridicule out of their fear of the master's paddle. Of course, this experience too becomes just another brick in Pink's wall.

The final step is marriage. While Pink becomes a successful musician, he is often inattentive to his wife, more interested in sitting at the piano keyboard than attending social functions, and looking over her at the TV as she tries to be romantic in bed. When she is inevitably driven away, and no longer answers his phone calls, Pink's wall is complete.

We begin to see the dark side of celebrity. Pink willingly participates in the music concerts, even though he feels the music industry is just another authoritarian social institution, offering no authentic human connection. In “One of My Turns,” his disillusionment boils over when a groupie follows him to his hotel room.

Day after day
Love turns gray
Like the skin on a dying man
Night after night
We pretend it's all right
But I have grown older
And you have grown colder
And nothing is very much fun, anymore
Run to the bedroom
In the suitcase on the left
You'll find my favorite axe
Don't look so frightened
This is just a passing phase
One of my bad days
Would you like to watch TV?
Or get between the sheets?

Or contemplate the silent freeway; would you like something to eat?
Would you like to learn to fly?
Would you like to see me try?

Would you like to call the cops?
Do you think it's time I stopped?

Why are you running away?

Ironically, the only place Pink finds hope for the possibility of authentic connection is TV, but he knows that's not real.

The song “Nobody Home” sums up his feeling,

I got elastic bands keepin my shoes on.
Got those swollen hand blues.
I got thirteen channels of shit on the T.V. to choose from.
I've got electric light.
And I got second sight.
Got amazing powers of observation.
And that is how I know
When I try to get through
On the telephone to you
There'll be nobody home.

I've got wild staring eyes.
And I've got a strong urge to fly.
But I've got nowhere to fly to.
Ooooh, Babe.

When I pick up the phone...
There's still nobody home.

Pink's repression has cut him off from all authentic human connection. In what could be argued is the climax of the movie, Pink takes on the identity of the leader of a Neo-political movement and moves his adoring fans to adopt dehumanizing attitudes. Director Alan Parker portrays has the crowd transition into a synchronized march, and brilliantly superimposes faceless masks over every member of the audience, illustrating the egoless conformity that crowd behavior brings out in us.

At some point in the future, Pink at last yells “STOP!” and takes time to reflect on what he has become.

He then heroically looks into himself, as depicted in “The Trial”. The site says it well,

In many ways, “the Trial" epitomizes all that is the Wall, combining the album's high theatrics, unflinching cynicism, dark humor, tongue-in-cheek irony, deep emotion, and (paradoxically) both unwavering nihilism and steadfast optimism. The song is a seeming contradiction, offering a dichotomous look at the light and dark, good and ill, of Pink's life from a number of different perspectives, all of which take place within the mind of one person.

Roger Waters explains, “the judge is part of him just as much as all the other characters and things he remembers. They're all in his mind, they're all memories.” Although bizarre at first glance, the“The Trial” is a fitting ending to the multiple themes the film touches on.

The Wall, both the album and the movie, is humongous in scope. It's about what concentrations of power and authoritarian social structures do to our souls. For anyone looking to face these deep issues head-on, The Wall brings offers ample opportunity for reflection.