Bottom Line: A dark, mesmerizing Fantasia.
Directed by: Alan Parker, Gerald Scarfe
Starring: Alex McAvoy, Bob Geldof, Bob Hoskins, Christine Hargreaves, Eleanor David, Michael Ensign
Other Credits: Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour, Michael Kamen, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, Roger Waters
Pink Floyd is, without a doubt, one of the greatest rock groups of all time. Their music is sensational not only by how irresistible the sound itself is, but how that in combination with fluent, elaborate lyrics paint a vivid landscape in our minds. One of their most noteworthy achievements is 1982’s The Wall, a visualization of their album of the same name from just three years earlier. The film isn’t laudable for its great acting or plot, but rather as proof that Pink Floyd can successfully accomplish something that turned out a rotten egg for the genre’s “founding fathers”. We all know who those two are. Technically, Elvis Presley and the Beatles did make movies from their albums; films such as Jailhouse Rock and Help! were so forgettable because the musical numbers, bound by only concept, were taken too literally. The Wall takes Pink Floyd’s 1979 album and renders it perfectly, as a darker yet equally mesmerizing update to Disney’s 1940s classic, Fantasia.
The Wall acts as a poem to tell its story. In both art and script, the film is a breakaway from what we would imagine it to be: a terribly overlong music video. Although pacing is almost nonexistent, with verses drastically varying in length, the curious premise requires the undivided attention of one who listens to Pink Floyd for their conceptual intrigue, not just the psychedelic tinge. Outside of the music itself, only around 250 total words are spoken, perhaps less than that. The plot is extremely unconventional, built up by a plethora of metaphors. Those who appreciate the subtleties of avant-garde art such as Fellini’s 8½ will without a doubt love it; others, even Pink Floyd fans, may find trouble understanding the brilliant idea. Our story revolves around Pink (Bob Geldof), a man young yet unbearably depressed. We learn of his earlier life in more comprehensive flashback, and his current situation in metaphors. The “wall” itself is perhaps the best instance of symbolism, as a resemblance of alienation.
It’s quite ironic that The Wall is so beautiful, despite surrounding about every theme from drug addiction to mass riots. It is flawed, but those missteps are forgivable with the note of Peter Biziou’s cinematography and political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe’s direction of select animated sequences. Both achievements are astonishing and outstanding. The difference between listening to the band’s Wall album and its cinematic adaptation is similar to watching a great movie after you’ve read the novel on which it is based. Although the characters and setting weren’t at all how you had imagined them, the version on the screen seems to make just as much sense as it did in your head. Dare I say this rarity makes even more sense.