A research paper on Pink Floyd: The Wall Movie
Building The Wall
Just like in a book, the writer of a movie uses different techniques to portray different themes. The same applies to Roger Waters “Pink Floyd: The Wall”, even if his techniques are unorthodox. Waters uses the lyrics and music of Pink Floyd to show how the main character, Pink Floyd, slowly travels into total isolation from the rest of the world. What Roger does with this film and through this film can be considered nothing less than art.
The idea for “The Wall” first came to Waters in 1977 during the tour for the previous album, Animals. Throughout the tour, the fan’s behavior angered Waters, in his opinion the audience for Pink Floyd’s show was supposed to be passive and attentive, not the screaming fans that were there. Waters hit breaking point during the tour’s last show, in Montreal, when he spit in the face of a fan who was persistently requesting a song, at the top of his lungs. After the tour Waters avowed the band would never play a large show again unless they were behind a wall, showing his desire for isolation.
“The Wall” is the story of Pink, a rock star who has seen too many fans and done too many drugs. It is a story filled with self-destruction and depression. More than anything else, however, it is the story of how Pink built a symbolical wall to isolate himself from the world and to protect himself from the pain associated with life. Many events throughout Pinks life added to the wall, from his father’s death to his adulterous wife, and everything in between. In the end, the total isolation destroys everything he ever was.
Pink’s wall of isolation goes up brick by brick, starting when his father died. The movie never states exactly when this is, but the viewer gets the impression it happened when he was still an infant. We start to see his father’s death in the second scene of the movie, when we see a soldier lighting a lantern. According to Water’s, the man who came up with the idea for the movie, this was on the frontline of the war in June, when his own father died. The death of Pink’s father becomes the first brick because it causes him to start seeing life exactly how it is, in all it’s cruel reality, at such a young age. This is very well portrayed a few scenes later as the viewer hears the lyrics for “Another Brick in the Wall part 1” which asks what his father “left behind” besides memories and “a snapshot in the family album”. The realization that he is living without a father and will never know what it’s like to have one is the event which causes Pink to begin building his wall to protect himself from the pain.
Another of the bricks in Pink’s wall is evident in one of the most famous Pink Floyd songs, “Another Brick In The Wall part 2”, which we hear in scene 9, and the scene before it in which we hear “Happiest Days of Our Lives”. In this scene one of Pink’s teachers harasses him for “[fancying] himself a poet”. Because there are “certain teachers” which want to beat all the individuality and artistry out of the students, Pink had to overcome the hassle of these teachers in order to become who he wanted to be. This was just one more thing in life which not only hurt but scared Pink, and so it became another brick in his wall because it was one more thing that made him feel the need to hide from life. The embarrassment and pain caused to him by this incident, and probably other incidents throughout his school life gave him another reason to try and escape from it all.
As Pink got deeper into drugs and his music, he grew further from his wife. When he became completely unresponsive to her, she left him and ended up with another man, becoming yet another of his bricks. She begins to cheat on him at the beginning of scene 10, during the song “Mother”; however she doesn’t officially leave him until the end of the scene/song. Not only does his wife leave him and find another man, she stops all contact with him and refuses to answer his calls. Because he is losing another person who was important to him, his father being the first, the pain for him is almost completely unbearable and is a big contribution to not only Pink’s isolation, but his self-destruction as well.
The combination of this song and scene also shows us another important factor, his mother’s over-protectiveness. The only part of the scene that suggests this is a flashback of Pink’s childhood illness when the lyric “Mother, am I really dying?” is followed by Pink’s mother turning off the light in his room and then closing the door. Most of this brick is shown in the lyrics alone.
Mother do you think they’ll drop the bomb?
Mother do you think they’ll like this song?
Mother do you think they’ll try to break my balls?
Mother should I build the wall?
Mother should I run for president?
Mother should I trust the government?
Mother will they put me in the firing line?
Ooh is it just a waste of time?
Ooh Mother am I really dying?
(Hush now baby, baby, don’t you cry.
Mother’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true.
Mother’s gonna put all her fears into you.
Mother’s gonna keep you right here under her wing.
She won’t let you fly but she might let you sing.
Mama will keep baby cozy and warm,
Ooh baby ooh baby ooh baby,
Of course Mama’s gonna help build the wall.)
Mother do you think she’s good enough – for me?
Mother do you think she’s dangerous – to me?
Mother will she tear your little boy apart?
Mother will she break my heart?
(Hush now baby, baby don’t you cry.
Mama’s gonna check out all your girlfriends for you.
Mama won’t let anyone dirty get through.
Mama’s gonna wait up until you get in.
Mama will always find out where you’ve been.
Mama’s gonna keep baby healthy and clean.
Ooh baby ooh baby ooh baby,
You’ll always be baby to me.)
Mother, did it need to be so high?
This not only shows Pink’s mother being over-protective, but Pink (for the most part) accepting it. He is not only asking her permission for everything, but also her opinion. It’s not until the last line that Pink begins to doubt his mom’s opinion, wondering if the wall has to be as high as it’s been built up at this point. Also, this song shows not only that Pink’s mother is herself a brick, but that she encouraged him to seperate himself from everything in life, save for her. His mother also brings upon a slight oedipal complex, although he isn’t able to have conflict with his father, because of his absence, his mother is often portrayed as a vagina, giving her some sexual attribution. There is also a scene in which it flashes between Pink laying in bed with his wife and Pink laying in bed with his mother. His wife is also portrayed as a vagina throughout the movie, although as his wife, it is an evil, harmful thing and as his mother it is caring and nurturing. This slight oedipal complex could also be seen as yet another brick.
It is in scene 11 that the wall actually goes up, during the song “What Shall We Do Now?”. At this point he has the bricks talked about earlier along with bricks of drug abuse, consumerism, stardom, and many other things. As the wall goes up, it is first industrialism and consumerism, made out of buildings and then cars and stereos and gold et cetera. As it continues to be built, the viewer sees the people on the outside of the wall and the pain and destruction it brings to them. The viewer can see how the wall defeats religion and is entirely connected to disease and decomposition.
In scene 16, during “Goodbye Cruel World” Pink has a symbolic death as he says goodbye to the world outside his wall. He goes catatonic and gives up on life at this point because he has just completely had enough of life. With this song, the music also ends abruptly, which could be him cutting off the world, and the listener, to what’s going on inside the wall. As Waters finishes singing, the song just ends.
Inside The Wall
In scene 17, as the wall is finally completed and Pink has cut off the world entirely, he immediately sees the negative effect. The song “Is There Anybody Out There” is simply that, the lyric “is there anybody out there?” repeated four times. As first glance, this seems like a call for help, but in reality it is Pink trying to reconnect with the outside world which he has just cut off, showing that he doesn’t desire to be completely isolated. However, it is not so much calling out for assistance as just making sure the outside world still exists and that he is alone in his walled in room, although not completely alone. As Waters first begins to sing the lyric, he is alone, although as it continues, he is joined by a chorus of voices. This foreshadows the emerging of Pink’s other personalities which come out after he has isolated himself from everyone else. In songs before this, there is hinting towards those other personalities, however it is not until this song they gain their own voices because they’ve gained control of Pink’s mind as he slowly lets go of it.
The song “Hey You” was on the album “The Wall” but was left out of the movie because it would be overly repetitive and was not needed, however it is still important to Pink’s development inside the wall. The song could be someone calling to Pink inside his wall, however it is more likely that it is Pink calling to others who are building their own walls. He calls “hey you, out there on your own, sitting naked by the phone, would you touch me?” and warns them not to “help them to bury the light” and not to “give in without a fight”. At this point Pink is sure of his mistake and wants to stop others like him from repeating it. His calling out to the person “sitting naked by the phone” and the person “with [their] ear against the wall” are things the viewer has seen Pink himself do, so Pink realizes he is not alone with his mistake and that others are in the process of making it at the same moment he is realizing the consequences.
It is as this song ends and before the next begins that Pink’s dictatorial personality gains complete control. As Pink the Rock Star died in scene 16, Pink the Dictator is able to take over after he is symbolically reborn, more-or-less hairless.
Scene 18, paired with the song “Nobody Home” is when Pink realizes that he needs help. Although he realizes this, he doesn’t know what to do about it, and so he’s stuck sitting in his chair watching TV. The lyrics of the song go through things Pink knows he has with him insides his wall, “the obligatory Hendrix perm” and “a pair of Gohills boots” along with his “silver spoon on a chain”. Although it is repeated that when he tries to connect to the outside world there is “nobody home”, and so the one thing he does not have is human connection. This song also shows us a more in depth view of his drug-addiction-brick. As he talks about the nicotine stains on his fingers, and then the silver cocaine spoon and the “swollen hand blues” that are often associated with heroin addicts or as a feeling one gets from high’s of other drugs.
It is in scene 21 that the outside world first makes contact with Pink inside his wall. At the beginning of “Comfortably Numb” it is a doctor, along with Pink’s manager and a group of other people that get through Pink’s psychological barrier. During the scene, the doctor is trying to revive Pink and bring him back to the world, which Pink is not yet ready to return to. However, the doctor is just what Pink was waiting for. As Pink asked “is there anybody out there?” in scene 17, the doctor replies in scene 21 with “is there anybody in there?” which is the confirmation Pink wanted that there is still someone in the outside world. As Pink replies to the doctor “there is no pain/ you are receding” it proves to us that Pink’s wall has worked and has blocked all feeling and emotion from Pink. Although, his saying “this is not how I am” proves that Pink is still just that, Pink. And that although he is isolated and in such a drugged stupor he seems unrecognizable, there is still a bit of sanity left in that he realizes he’s not supposed to be this way.
In scene 22 Pink reaches a moment of clarity for what could very well be the first time in the film. He has fully realized the negative effects of the wall and his isolation, how it has taken away his individuality and his emotions. Because of his isolation, he is now faced with some questions: Should he continue on the path he is and do what he is told or lock himself away again? Should he continue life or commit suicide? In the end, he decides that “The Show Must Go On” and continues on the path on which he is being led, which eventually leads to destruction. This is also when he accepts and admits the new Pink the Dictator, saying that “Pink isn’t well, he stayed back at the hotel”.
As a result of Pink’s isolation, he has become the very thing that began it. He is becoming the same dictatorial force as Hitler, who was the cause of his father’s death (his first brick) in WWII. Pink the Dictator also represents the schoolteacher authority and his mother’s over-protective nature. He instills fear into people and supports the conformity he has been against since childhood when he “[fancied] himself a poet”. He is not only a mask hiding the true Pink which is still buried inside somewhere, but the raw emotion which has built up throughout the building of the wall.
It is in scene 24, while “Waiting For The Worms” plays, that Pink fully realizes his isolation is far from the ideal he had hoped for. He continues to wage the war inside himself; even as Pink the Dictator is ruling the outside. This scene shows the repeating theme of disease and human isolation in large majority by linking Pink to many dictators, form Hitler and Mussolini to a lesser known British politician named Sir Oswald Mosley. This also shows more of Pink’s multiple personalities we are introduced to with “Is There Anybody Out There?” by having not only the many different influences on the scene but by having the whole crowd of people following and chanting with Pink.
In scene 25, we once again see Pink the Rock Star gaining control. At this point he has decided he wants to rid himself of all the bricks, all the things that have caused him pain, but he admits he is not ready to leave his cell. He is beginning to realize that he played a major part in building his wall and that it wasn’t all fate. He wants to be judged, and he wants to be punished for all his actions which have lead to complete self-destruction.
Tearing Down the Wall
In scene 26, the story begins to come to a close as Pink puts himself on trial for his part in building his wall and creating his isolation. Pink is trying to come to terms with all the decisions he has made and the paths he has taken throughout life. It is ironic that trials are meant to see whether or not someone goes to jail, however, Pink’s trial is to see whether or not he can emerge from his self-created prison of isolation. Pink gives himself this trial full of memories of his past as well as characters he has created within his isolation in order to evaluate his entire life and his upcoming redemption. However, Pink doesn’t allow all of the blame to be put on him. The “witnesses” nearly justify for Pink the schoolteacher brick and the mother brick. The wife brick however, is shown to be entirely Pink’s fault. The wife witness gives Pink what he deserves and points out to him that it was his own fault the marriage didn’t work out and that brick was created by himself, and no one else. However, these witnesses are all inside Pink’s head because he is putting himself on trial, so the wife’s verbal beating is more Pink’s realization that he destroyed his marriage and he was to blame for his wife’s unfaithfulness.
As the scene goes on, Pink speaks up that he is “crazy”. He is realizing that the bricks and the self-isolation is the reason he has lost any bit of humanity or sanity. He is once again, seeing the affects isolation had on him. He also states that “there must have been a door there in the wall/ when I came in” but he isn’t willing to accept that the door he needs to get out is communication and connection with other people.
The judge’s verdict on Pink is actually Pink’s true self passing judgment that he should’ve treated his mother and his wife better than he did. And his “punishment” of tearing down the wall is actually the redemption he was searching for. Because his judgment on himself was fair and unbiased, an honest interpretation and not a clouded conclusion he is allowed to escape from his isolation and once again join the rest of the world.
As Pink’s wall comes down, he is able for the first time to live without past burdens holding him down. Although without the wall it is more likely he will get hurt, he is also able to easier feel the pleasures of life he had been missing out on before. He no longer has his mental defenses up to deter the way he is living and his future.
As the wall finally is knocked into a million separate bricks, Pink is once again able to become a part of society and be more human than he had ever been in the past.
The movie ends with a cyclic idea. There are children walking around and picking up the bricks from Pinks fallen wall, to perhaps put into walls of their own. The cycle of personal isolation will always be continuing. Another, happier conclusion however, is that the children are picking up bricks to rebuild as opposed to destroy.