The Wall – Movie
Pink Floyd The Wall – Movie is a 1982 musical film by British director Alan Parker based on the 1979 Pink Floyd album The Wall. The screenplay was written by Pink Floyd vocalist and bassist Roger Waters. The film is highly metaphorical and is rich in symbolic imagery and sound. It features very little dialogue and is mainly driven by Pink Floyd’s music.
The film contains fifteen minutes of elaborate animation sequences by the political cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe, part of which depict a nightmarish vision of the German bombing campaign over the United Kingdom during World War II set to the song “Goodbye Blue Sky”.
The Wall – Movie depicts the construction and ultimate demolition of a metaphorical wall. Though the film is open to interpretation, the wall itself clearly reflects a sense of isolation and alienation.
Pink, the protagonist (and unreliable narrator) of the film, is depicted at various stages of physical and emotional development. Pink is first seen sitting by himself in a quiet hotel room, just after having trashed it. During the following scenes, it is revealed that Pink’s father was killed during World War II while he was just a baby.
The Wall – Movie then flashes back to Pink as a young English boy growing up in the early 1950s. Throughout his childhood, Pink longs for a father figure, and is devastated to learn of his father’s death through a certificate sent by “Kind Old King George”. Pink bids farewell to his “blue sky” and begins construction on his wall. Later, Pink is seen along with two cronies laying cartridges from his father’s service weapon on a railway, where he is caught by a domineering teacher.
The The Wall – Movie scene then switches over to Pink’s school, where he is humiliated by the teacher for writing poems in class. The poems that the teacher reads aloud are lyrics from “Money” from the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon. Pink is also affected by his overprotective mother, who won’t let him have a life of his own. Pink eventually gets married, but over the years, he and his wife grow further and further apart, with Pink concentrating on his music; his wife becomes involved with an anti-nuclear group, and eventually has an affair with its leader while Pink is on tour.
When Pink learns of the affair, he fills in the gaps in his wall with expensive materialistic possessions (stereos, fancy cars, television sets, etc.). Mirroring his wife’s infidelity, Pink (now a rock star) turns to a willing groupie (Jenny Wright), inviting her to his hotel room despite his initial exasperation with her. Pink falls into another one of his television-induced trances, only to eventually have an emotional breakdown, trashing the hotel room and driving the groupie away. After years of repressed rage and mental anguish, Pink declares that he doesn’t need anything at all, and completes his wall.
Behind his freshly completed wall, Pink slowly begins to lose his mind to metaphorical worms eating into his brain. He begins to see the drawbacks of isolating himself from society, and tries vainly to reconnect with the outside world. After failing to do so, Pink locks himself within his hotel room, and spends his days creating an odd shrine out of his ruined possessions. Eventually, Pink shaves off all of his body hair, giving birth to his neo-nazi alter-ego. The incident was inspired by former bandmate Syd Barrett, who appeared at a 1975 recording session of Wish You Were Here, having shaved his eyebrows and body hair.
While watching The Dam Busters on television, Pink, discovering what he has become, falls into a catatonic state, during which he attempts to reconnect with the past. In the real world, Pink’s manager (Bob Hoskins), along with the hotel manager (Michael Ensign) and some paramedics, discover Pink in his trance, and inject him with drugs to snap him out of it; the manager attempts to justify Pink’s actions (“He’s an artist!”), then pays for the damage.
On stage, Pink hallucinates that he is a Nazi, Hitler-like dictator, his concert reduced to a Nazi rally. Upon his orders, Pink’s followers proceed to tear apart the houses and restaurants of ethnic minorities, rape the white girlfriend of a black man, and generally destroy everything in their path, in scenes reminiscent of Kristallnacht. After the riot, Pink holds a rally in a suburban neighbourhood singing “Waiting for the Worms”. The scene is inter-cut by images of the animated marching hammers that goosestep across ruins. At the climax of his rule, Pink’s conscience finally rebels.
Pink (Bob Geldof) at a neo-nazi rallyThe images are finally ceased as Pink screams “Stop!”, and he takes refuge in a bathroom stall, where distant cheering could be heard, hinting that the whole time he was hallucinating before his rock concert. In the final sequence, Pink goes before a bizarre kangaroo court trial, shown entirely in animation. Pink is animated as a small blank-faced doll that rarely moves. The judge is animated as a giant pair of buttocks wearing a British judge’s wig and speaking out of its anus. In the court appears Pink’s mother, flying in as a giant aeroplane and big talking lips; the schoolmaster, a marionette; and Pink’s wife, morphing from a snake to a scorpion to a fiery-haired hag with literal “love handles” and exposed vagina. After hearing evidence from them all, the judge decrees that Pink should be “exposed before [his] peers” and orders the wall to be torn down.
Finally, children are seen cleaning up the street after a riot. The film ends with a child dumping the contents of a Molotov cocktail onto the ground.
Even before the original Pink Floyd album was recorded, a The Wall – Movie was intended to be made from it. However, the concept of the The Wall – Movie was intended to be live footage from the album’s tour, with Scarfe’s animation and extra scenes. The film was going to star Waters himself. EMI did not intend to make the film, as they did not understand the concept.
Director Alan Parker, a fan of Pink Floyd, asked EMI whether The Wall could be adapted to film. EMI suggested that Parker talk to Waters, who asked Parker to direct the film. Parker instead suggested that he produce it and give the directing task to Scarfe and Michael Seresin, a cinematographer. Waters began work on the film’s screenplay after studying scriptwriting books. He and Scarfe produced a special-edition book containing the screenplay and art to pitch the project to investors. While the book depicted Waters in the role of Pink, after screen tests, he was removed from the starring role; he was replaced with the punk musician Bob Geldof.
Since Waters was no longer in the starring role, it no longer made sense for the feature to include Pink Floyd footage, so the live film aspect was dropped. The footage culled from the five Wall concerts that were held specifically for filming was deemed unusable.
During production, Geldof suffered a cut to his hand while filming the destruction of the hotel room set as he pulls away the venetian blinds. The footage remains in the film. Also, it was discovered during the filming of the pool scenes that Geldof did not know how to swim. Interiors were shot at Pinewood Studios, and it was suggested that they suspend Geldof in Christopher Reeve’s clear cast used for the Superman flying sequences from storage, but his frame was too small by comparison; it was then decided to use a similar mould for Helen Slater from Supergirl, which was a more acceptable fit, and he simply laid on his back.