Very rarely do movies rattle you to your core with nearly every scene or come together as well as Pink Floyd: The Wall. Told in a circular style, the film only makes complete sense after having watched it in its entirety. Combining music, animation, and live-action sequences, Pink Floyd: The Wall takes a concept album and fleshes it out to a wonderful feature-length film.
Seen from the perspective of a mostly mute narrator, the first act of the film is filled with what appear to be disparate sequences, such as a soldier lighting a lantern, a crazy man sitting in a hotel room, and a boy running in a sunlit field. Only after watching the film for a while does one understand what he sees in the first act. Films like this can be taxing, but director Alan Parker’s decision to marry the music so tightly to the images make it worth it. He establishes a few separate strands of the same story and then spends the rest of the film filling in the details. By presenting the story in seemingly unrelated sections, Parker underscores Pink’s loneliness while at the same time mirroring his favorite pastime, flipping channels on the television.
The most affecting example of the film’s circularity is the “Comfortably Numb” sequence, which elaborates on the sunlit field image that appears several times throughout the film. Finally, we see that the boy running is Pink, the film’s protagonist. He scoops up a rat, runs home with it, which in turn disgusts his mother. Thus, he takes the rat, hides it in a nearby shed, and keeps it warm with his sweater. He returns the next day to find that the rat has died. Why does Pink return to this image so often? Was this the first moment he encountered death first-hand? Or was this the moment at which he got sick, when he “had a fever” when he was a child?
Another example of the circular story-telling in film is the image of Pink floating in repose his hotel room swimming pool. The image appears twice in the film, at first during “The Thin Ice” sequence and again during the “Don’t Leave Me Now” sequence. Rife with Christian imagery, the image shows Pink afloat in water stained pink by blood. By repeating his images, Parker plays with the human mind’s susceptibility to madness as well as challenging his audience to make sense of what appear to be random images at first.
Pink Floyd: The Wall is not for everyone. Its bleak message may be depressing, but look past the difficult subject matter and discover a film unique in its presentation. If you can do this, you will not be disappointed.