So, you’ve made one of the most complex and ambitious albums of all time that somehow never fell victim to the kind of ego needed to attempt something of this magnitude. You followed it up with one of the most complex and ambitious tours of all time that somehow never collapsed under its own weight. What now? Well, you decide to turn it into the most expensive student film ever made, of course. And what you get is, Pink Floyd The Wall.
For such a grand, bombastic movie, the story is surprisingly small and personal. Bob Geldof plays Pink, a disillusioned rock star. Through a series of flash backs, we see him as young boy, fatherless thanks to the war, struggling to find a paternal role model. Later, he’s married, but there’s no time for romance. His wife cheats on him while he’s on tour and Pink descends into self destruction and madness.
For me, the line was constantly blurred between what was really happening to Pink and what were the delusions of a mad men. I have no idea if this was deliberate on the part of writer Roger Waters and director Alan Parker, or if a lot of Pink Floyd The Wall just went over my head. Either way, I really dug that ambiguity. For me, it’s what made the lose narrative and combination of music and movie so effective.
My comment earlier about it being the most expensive student film ever made isn’t a criticism on my part. It’s a direct quote from director Alan Parker. For a man who seems to be a little dismissive of The Wall in hindsight, he certainly didn’t half ass anything while making it. Visually and technically, this is one of the most ambitious movies I’ve ever seen.
It’s this no holds barred, full steam ahead approach from Parker that makes it all work. With such a lofty and outright pretentious vision by Roger Waters, a balls out attitude from Parker turns those pretentions into the movie’s biggest strength, when they could have so easily been such a huge weakness.
I don’t think I’ll ever have the desire to watch Pink Floyd The Wall again, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. If someone else wanted to watch it, I’d have no problem sitting through it again, but I’m not sure if it would have much of an impact a second time around.
As layered as I’m sure it is, everything I liked about it was on the surface. The visuals, the music, the visceral shock of some of the more deliberately confronting imagery. And I’m sure that’s probably the exact opposite reaction Waters was going for as he built this amazingly intricate story brick by brick (symbolic?). But I’m also sure a lot of the edge would definitely be lost knowing what was coming in certain scenes.