Review: Pink Floyd – The Wall (1982)

Outside The Wall.

by Iñaki Oñate

Thirty five years ago the movie Pink Floyd- The Wall (1982) came out and shook the entire world.

With Pink Floyd – The Wall, the walls between film, music and animation were torn completely. This was long before the popularity of MTV and all those “film-like” music videos by Justin Bieber. This was before the music video genre was established as such. The Wall was a fundamental event that would change art forever like Un Chien Andalou (1929) or 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) did at the time.

The film  premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 1982 and was released commercially on July of the same year. Three masterminds were behind the project: leader, vocalist and bassist Roger Waters wrote the screenplay based on his childhood and also on the mythical figure of Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett. Director Alan Parker would be in charge of the live-action secuences and the cherry on top… cartoonist Gerald Scarfe would supply the surreal animations for the film.

Waters delivered a screenplay that was only a few pages long and had very abstract sequences that appeared to be almost disconnected from each other. The key was the music – was the real storyline. The screenplay featured scenes and imagery that would enrichen the live-action parts and indicated when the animations should happen. Once the three visions (Waters, Parker and Scarfe) collided the result was a surreal rock opera that made your heart explote and your mind implode into your darkest and hardest thoughts and fears.

The story of a successful rock artist that becomes a fascist leader is a perfect parabole. Suitable for all of us. We’re all capable of setting the world on fire. The child can grow to become the killer of children. The white dove can harvest a dark metallic Eagle in its insides and this Eagle can come out with the right amount of hatred and isolation.

Unfortunately I hadn’t been born yet when the movie came out, but years later, thanks to the arrival of home movie entertainment, I was able to watch it for the first time on Betamax (the predecessor of VHS). I was
probably four or five years old and after I saw the film I ran to the bathroom and shaved my eyebrows. After that and up until my teenage
years I saw that film easily three our four times per week. I would go around the house whispering: Is there anybody out there?

As a matter of fact, there were people out there. Millions just like me. Who felt like Pinky. Trying to make some sense and trying to find love in a world filled with sadistic teachers and worms. The movie became a cultural phenomenon and a franchise. Prior to the film, the original record was a hit as well as the seven shows given in the most important cities in the world. But afterwards The Wall became an institution. Waters would play two live shows of The Wall: one in Berlin in 1990 and another in 2015.

Funnily enough none of the artists responsible for such work of art were happy with the end result. Nevertheless, Alan Parker – the least dissapointed of the trio – revealed an interesting anecdote as he looked back proudly to the original Cannes premiere. He told the interviewer that at the end of the projection, Steven Spielberg ,who was seated just five rows in front of Parker, said: What the fuck did I just watch?

Walls go up and down throughtout history. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s gonna be until the end of times. The Wall is so much more than a musical film: it’s a statement about the enemy within us and the barriers made out of fear and loneliness. A document about mankind that serves as a light, a warning sign. Generations to come will find in this masterpiece the keys to understanding the origin of hate and power from institutions and despots. A way outside the Wall.


IñaIñaki Oñate / Writer (Quito, Ecuador – 1988) Iñaki resides in Buenos Aires, where he studied film directing at Universidad del Cine. His short films have been part of the official selection at the New York, La Habana and Cannes festivals.  He’s currently developing his first feature film with his own independent production company, Undergofilms. He also works in music and art illustration.

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