«The Wall», by Pink Floyd.
«The Wall» is a film based on music and lyrics. It was made by the English band Pink Floyd in the late seventies, and is in many ways a self-biography of their lives as rock-stars.
The story begins in a hotel room where the main character, Pinky, is sitting in the darkness by himself. He is more or less apathetic, lost of this world. «The Wall» is a story about society and its capability of breaking down human minds; crushing all creativity, creating obedient and
conform members. It is an individual description of one person as well as a general description of society. The story with Pinky is perhaps an extreme example of the cruelty and the evil aspects of this world, but single episodes and the main lines can be recognised by most persons. The sub-themes are many: the loss of a parent, the consequences of war, a mother's overprotection, growing up to become a functioning social member, drugs, fascism and extreme political organizations, the way school and teachers form the future lives of the pupils, unfaithfulness, commercialism, you name it. These sub-themes are all «bricks in Pinky's wall», leading towards a state of isolation and emptiness, an asocial and surreal state of mind.
In the film Pinky has become a grown-up rock-star. His state of mind is rather critical, due to a series of happenings - «bricks» - in his past. The plot is retrospectively presented to give the viewer an insight into, and an understanding of the circumstances. His father is killed during World War II, about the same time as Pinky is born. He grows up with his mother and her anguish, and early discovers the drawbacks of life. In the search of a father figure he meets his first barrier. At a playground at the age of 4-5 he tries to «adopt» an unknown man to be his father, but is rudely turned down. As he grows older he starts school - another brick in his wall. The school is presented as a «factory» producing obedient and brainwashed members of society. In Pinky's head the students revolt towards the suppression of the teachers, destroying desks and school-materials, tearing down the walls. The dream is though interrupted by his mean teacher hanging over him, just waiting to make him look like a fool.
We hear little or nothing about Pinky as a teenager in the film, but jump straight to his meeting with his wife and his marriage. A marriage that later will bring him even further into his isolation. His wife meets another man, and Pinky is to know when calling her house from overseas at night getting this stranger's voice on the line.
As Pinky is grown-up, he is slowly drifting towards insanity. He is touring with his band, but isn't taking part in the jet-set life of his crew. Some «dirty girls» get into one of the parties at the camp, and one of them tries to get through to Pinky, unsuccessfully that is. At this time Pinky has reached the point where his head can't take anymore. He gets raging mad, throwing things around him destroying his entire apartment. He changes his entire image by cutting his hair, shaving his eyebrows and dressing in some kind of a nazi uniform. His managers find him in a rather bad condition, and call in a doctor who gives him drugs and medicaments to make him make it through the evenings concert. These drugs and Pinky's general mental condition creates illusions of the show in which Pinky appears as a fascist leader, pointing out the outcasts; Jews, coons, queers, and where his audience blindly follows him.
The film is constantly changing between different points of time: Pinky's father in the war, Pinky as a child and Pinky as a grown-up, and there are several parallel intrigues to be found. As a child, Pinky finds a dead rat and becomes seriously ill. These scenes are shown in parallel with the scenes where Pinky is in total apathy, doped on drugs and driven to utter insanity. Also, the scenes from his early puberty where he is secretly smoking in his bedroom, watching with the greatest interest the woman next door getting undressed are obvious parallels to himself some years later watching TV, totally uninterested in his wife getting undressed in front of him.
The contrasts in the story are very prominent; everything is driven to the extremes. The classical contrast between innocence and experience are following the story from start to completion. The death of Pinky's father slides into the crying of the new-born Pinky, like evil into blameless. Also, the contrast between Pinky and other children innocently playing to the situation of his father's death and war in general is an obscene contrast. Pinky himself is though perhaps the greatest contrast of all. His difficult childhood and nervous state of mind in spite, he has become a rock-star with the power of leading his audience in to extremes.
The film is loaded with symbols. The main symbol is of course «the wall». Different negative episodes - «bricks» - throughout Pinky's life has each built their part of this wall. The wall has become an abstract barrier between Pinky and society, but is also concretised in different ways throughout the film. In a cartoon sequence it is build out of skyscrapers, houses, cars and money, and is thereby also functioning as a symbol of commercialism. On several occasions we can se Pinky or others grasping the wall trying to get out. The wall is in Pinky's case not solely negative. Although it keeps Pinky from the rest of the world, it also protects him from it. The problem is really that the wall has become too high for him to look over, and in the cartoon review in the ending scenes, the wall is closing around him, making it quite impossible to even get around it. In the very end, however, the wall is torn down. This to be Pinky's penalty for "showing feelings of an almost human nature"
The television is another important symbol. It has the function of a window towards the «real» world, and is a rather important part of Pinky's life. The TV does though in some cases also have an isolating function by keeping his interest and attention away from the people around him. In his final breakdown Pinky breaks his television and throws it out the window, symbolising him cutting all contact with the outer world.
The telephone is included in several critical moments of Pinky's life. When dying, his father is holding the telephone trying to get help, and it is slowly slipping out of his hand as he passes away. It is, as a telephone is meant to be, a symbol of communication and contact. One of the quite important bricks in Pinky's wall, his wife's unfaithfulness, is also brought to him through the phone.
In a cartoon sequence during Pinky's illusive fascist appearance we see a large amount of hammers marching in parade. These hammers could be symbols of the members of society, people with «iron-brains», programmed to do what they are told only, incapable of thinking for themselves. Though capable of doing a great deal of damage.
Pinky is a quite confused person, and is definitely mentally disturbed. Throughout his childhood and life his experiences has been mainly negative. His mother's overprotection has made him somewhat helpless and unable to protect himself against the cruelty of society. He is easily influenced by his surroundings, but is longing for power and control. He is all the way through different from everyone else, both unintentionally and on purpose. He has in some way, in spite of all difficulties, managed to become a rock-star with numerous of admirers. His face out is the total opposite of his true self. He is acting self confident and powerful, but is really on the edge of a total breakdown. He is asocial, living pretty much in his own world unable to make contact with other people, and his breakdown and fascist dreams shows his long time accumulated aggression and despair. The two main bricks of his wall - his fathers death during the World War II, and his mother's way of dealing with this through overprotecting him and helping him building the wall, have had an enormous influence on him and have made him who he is. To force the wall seems occasionally unachievable.
Pink Floyd's view on society and life is completely pessimistic; the points of light are rather few. The band is bringing out the extremes of society, driving everything to the furthest. The story is on this sense not comparable to society as I see it. Everything has been against Pinky, and society is described as a down-breaking evil conspiracy towards mankind. Though strongly exaggerated, Pink Floyd has brought up the dark sides of modern society, creating a hardly encouraging film about human mind and society in general.