|hen human beings go through a traumatic experience we often establish internal safety mechanisms, to protect ourselves in the future. The problem is, these devices typically shut us off from the world.|
Roger Waters is a man who has felt the pain of a thousand men: the death of his father, the grasp of an overbearing mother, the unfaithfulness of his wife. Pieces of his grief are exposed in his songs "Corporal Clegg," "If," "Money," and "Pigs (Three Different Ones)." These emotions finally came to a climax in Montreal, 1977, when Roger spat in disgust on a crazed fan. It was at this time that Roger created an outlet within himself by deciding to lyrically and theatrically expose some of his deepest experiences. The Wall serves to this day as a connection between the voids within humanity and the lines of distrust amongst nations and cultures, which those same voids help create.
Roger's opus was characterized by many as the defining moment in his life. Others would point fingers at Roger's "egoism," remembering The Wall as the point where Roger and David Gilmour went their separate ways. In any case, one thing can not be ignored: Roger's connection with his audience would never again be impersonal. Roger's masterpiece begins with the song "In The Flesh?," a wake up for the audience in which he portrays the disillusionment of 'the show.'
During the film we see a Nazi-like Pink singing to a crowd of fans. The purpose of Pink's message is to bridge the gap between the band and the audience. A honest attempt at getting the fans to see how they trapped Roger behind this rock 'n' roll wall.
We now see what I interpret as Roger's warning to himself, "The Thin Ice." I feel as though this song exemplifies the outlet which Roger created to express his vision.
On the thin ice of modern life
Dragging behind you the silent reproach
Of a million tear stained eyes
Don't be surprised when a crack in the ice
Appears under your feet
You slip out of your depth and out of your mind
With your fear flowing out behind you
As you claw the thin ice."
We see a feeble Pink lying in a pool at a hotel. Blood surrounds his body, memories of his father fill his mind. At this point Roger has torn away his mask and we begin to see his inner fields of gray.
In "Another Brick in the Wall - part 1" we hear of the first grief stricken cries of Roger's lost father, Eric Fletcher Waters.
According to Nicholas Schaffner's book Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey, "Waters senior was only thirty when he died, slain along with forty thousand other British soldiers in a reckless British campaign to capture the bridgehead of Anzio from the Nazis" (pg. 15). Roger was just a newborn baby when his father was killed. This undoubtedly served as the basis for Roger's hatred towards war and the powers that be, leading to such lyrical gems as The Final Cut. "In Waters' own terminology, the absence of his father amounted to the first - and the worst - brick in his wall."
"The Happiest Days of our Lives" takes us back to our childhood when life was simple. For Roger and the boys, however, this was a time of the English Public School System when certain teachers would:
Yet, as Roger goes on to explain, these teachers were controlled by their "fat and psychopathic wives," leading to the puppet figure so wonderfully illustrated by Gerald Scarfe, and so widely known among fans. This transition brings us to one of 1979's hit singles "Another Brick in the Wall - part 2," with its haunting echoes of the twenty-three Islington Green School fourth-formers singing the chorus:
Scarfe's frightful pictures of faceless and selfless youths being ground into pig meat fills our eyes as the teacher whips the students into shape. Roger now shifts the momentum of the memories of his childhood to his overbearing mother, Mary Waters. Nicholas Schaffner presents an analytical point of view: "Mary Waters may have overcompensated for the absence of the father, but at the heart she was only trying to do the right thing by the youngest of her three boys. She was and is a person of strong convictions (including political ones, of a strongly leftist stripe): like mother, like son" (pg. 16, Saucerful of Secrets). In any case, this overbearing behavior sheltered Roger's outlook on life.
Roger's mother also sheltered him from the opposite sex, which can be very devastating to a young male.
Mama won't let anyone dirty get through
Mama's gonna wait up till you come in
Mama will always find out where you've been."
Young Roger is slowly strangled by his mother, and by his new girlfriend. Schaffner explains, "In Roger's case, his engagement to Judy Trim was partly in reaction against his possessive mother, who had actually encouraged him "to go out and look for dirty girls" in the hope that he wouldn't settle down with one clean one. The new Mrs. Waters nonetheless had much in common with the older version: both were schoolteachers and radical left-wingers - and neither could bear rock 'n' roll" (pg. 95, Saucerful of Secrets). "She was also the one person known to boss him around. "On the one hand," observes Peter Jenner [who, along with Andrew King, created Blackhill Enterprises - Pink Floyd's first partnership with a full-time manager], "Roger was extremely tough and strong, and held the band together after Syd [Barrett] left.
As the wall continues to grow, becoming higher and wider with each brick, we come to one of the most powerful animated sequences in the film The Wall. "Goodbye Blue Sky" is portrayed most notably by Scarfe's 'frightened ones' as we see the white dove of peace transform into a black bird of war, then becoming a giant factory from which the lives of thousands fly to their death. Personally, I found this sequence one of the most moving during the movie, especially as we see a Union Jack transformed into a bloodied cross.
Roger seems to combine and personalize the horrors of war with the ghosts which fight within them. How can humankind go on persecuting life? Roger then uses the momentum of his feelings of emptiness and sorrow created by "Goodbye Blue Sky" to virtually complete his wall in "Empty Spaces," and "What shall we do now?" Once again Scarfe's imagery is wonderful, depicting the 'dance of the penis' between two flowers, Roger and Judy. Watching the movement of each enables us to see the violence that not only accompanies sex, but often defines it, especially when love turns sour.
As the scene shifts, Scarfe illustrates how savage human nature can become as we see an innocent person's skull shattered open by a clubbed maniac, while simultaneously the wall smashes through a church and transforms into an electric jungle filled with cars, neon bricks, and money.
Images of thousands of people waving their faceless masks at Roger's concert in Berlin, 1990, fill my mind.
The experiences of his father, mother, wife, and teacher now have Roger asking,
The scene quickly shifts to a rock concert and a few 'dirty women' which sets the stage for "Young Lust." I always felt as if Roger were torn with the thoughts of his wife and marriage at this time. The questions of communication fill his mind, making him vulnerable but closed off from the world. As the women approach the backstage area through their specialized techniques, we see a despondent Roger locked away in his world.
|The song ends with an infamous phone call. Roger dials his home, only to be hung up on by another man. Mrs. Waters has finally done him in by cheating on him. Roger is left cold and empty at the pay phone. The young groupie becomes his sole source of comfort and his only companion. His emotions slowly twist and turn until we feel the impending disaster of "One of My Turns."|
Like the skin of a dying man
Night after night we pretend it's all right
But I have grown older and
You have grown colder and
Nothing is very much fun any more
........Run to the bedroom, in the suitcase on the left
You'll find my favorite axe
Don't look so frightened
This is just a passing phase
Just one of my bad days."
Love has now come to an end between Roger and Judy. One last cry to her, "Don't Leave me Now," stands as a tribute to the trials of the heart. Sitting almost naked in a room watching TV, as blood drips from Roger's hand, Scarfe's evil image of Judy looms above him, scaring him to death. Thoughts of her having sex with another man fill his mind. They sicken him, and cause him to let go.
Roger screams out his hatred, as his soul is ripped open with the memory of Judy.
"Another Brick in the Wall - part 3" serves as the final acknowledgment that the wall has all but been completed. The hatred and loneliness which have filled Roger's soul are now expressed as cold bricks.
I don't need no drugs to calm me
I have seen the writing on the wall
Don't think I need anything at all
......All in all you were all just bricks in the wall."
Now Roger stands behind his wall, looking out at thousands and thousands of screaming fans. There is only one hole in his wall, and it is about to be filled. As the band begins to play "Goodbye Cruel World," Roger stares at this mass of twisting, turning worms, and sings;
The last brick is slipped into place. The wall now separates the audience from the band, i.e.: Roger from the uncaring void of humanity.
From behind his wall, Roger cries out, "Hey You." We feel his pain and emptiness once again as he stands, naked and alone, wishing for more, wanting only to be outside his wall. Unfortunately, in the end, he concludes it is almost hopeless and becomes completely locked away within himself, living within his own reality, just like Syd Barrett.
I believe this last line acts as the point of metamorphosis between Roger and Syd, much like the worms signify the transition of Roger into the neo-Nazi at the end of "Comfortably Numb." In any case, during the next few aspects of The Wall the forces of Syd and Roger are combined.
"Is There Anybody Out There?" displays a dejected Roger. However, this image was probably best expressed by Syd's defunct behavior. From all descriptions, Syd's breakdown was complete. Due to the pressures of stardom, drugs, women, the death of his father, and whatever else may have happened, Syd built a wall around his heart. The connection between Roger and Syd is felt most strongly at this point, as Bob Geldof (the actor in the movie) stands practically naked hammering against the wall crying, "Is anybody out there?" We then see Pink mulling around his apartment, arranging the chaos he produced through his emptiness - creating, much as Syd did, amazing works of art out of an open and lost mind. Schaffner states, "Geldof's newfound identification with the subject matter enabled him to portray Pink all the more convincingly - not least in the Syd-inspired episodes of The Wall's third quarter. Though Geldof had never met Barrett, June Bolan (who knew him well) [she worked for Blackhill Enterprises as a secretary] attests to the authenticity of Bob's impersonation: 'I was absolutely shell-shocked; it was so close to Syd I couldn't bear it. When he was looking in that bathroom mirror and shaving himself, I just had tears, and was sitting rigid in the cinema, because it was ever so close to home; I could feel for Syd totally'" (pg. 249, Saucerful of Secrets).
The newly shaven Pink sits, flipping from such shows as "Tom and Jerry" to a speech by Reagan. "Nobody Home" begins to play and Roger starts to reflect upon his life, and finds it rather empty.
And that is how I know
When I try to get through
On the telephone to you
There'll be nobody home
I've got the obligatory Hendrix perm
And the inevitable pinhole burns
All down the front of my favorite satin shirt
I've got nicotine stains on my fingers
I've got a silver spoon on a chain
I've got a grand piano to prop up my mortal remains
I've got wide staring eyes
I've got a strong urge to fly
But I've got nowhere to fly to."
Roger's specific reference to Syd can be seen with the Hendrix perm and the pinhole burns on the satin shirt. The scene now begins to shift, and we see an older Roger who is locked away in his mind watching TV in a semi-desert area, analogous to the land where the war-scenes were fought in the film's opening scenes. He begins to shake violently and transforms into himself as a child.
At the end of the song we see young Roger exploring an old bunker. As young Pink walks through this bunker he enters a hospital mental ward where he sees a strait-jacket lying on a bed. He walks slowly through the ward and into the shower room, where he sees Syd. He slowly walks up to him and puts his hand on Syd's shoulder. Syd looks up at young Pink with a grimacing, lost face. Roger turns to run, leaving his old band mate to rest in peace, something very few people had ever done in Syd's life of fame. I feel Roger ran because he saw, for the first time, what he would become if he continued living behind his wall. He had, after all, lived through Syd's mental decline. The scene then shifts to young Roger walking along in a trench, where he encounters a mass of dead British soldiers. He turns to walk away and finds one young soldier lying with his eyes open, as if staring at God. Pink carefully pulls a bloodied blanket up around the shoulders of the young man. Now we see Pink back in the desert scene, observing the older Roger as he watches TV. Then young Pink walks off into a haze and suddenly he is at a train station.
Hundreds of wives and children are anxiously awaiting the return of their husbands and fathers from the war. As Pink walks through the crowd of returning soldiers, we hear "Vera" begin.
Schaffner explained how Waters felt this was "'the central song on the whole album,' equally applicable to soldiers on the front or rock 'n' rollers on tour" (pg. 226, Saucerful of Secrets). A band of young boys walks by during the first run-through of the song: they resemble rock 'n' rollers on tour. During the second run-through, a group of soldiers sings the song: they resemble the soldiers on the front. When the song comes to an end Roger is left alone at the station, and sits down and watches TV. The scene suddenly shifts to the apartment where the older Pink is locked behind his wall watching TV.
"Comfortably Numb" begins as Roger's manager breaks into his destroyed apartment with a sea of people. As the doctor tries to revive Roger, the manager pays off a very pissed off hotel owner. We now enter Roger's mind and return to his childhood. We see him running across a football field and finding a rat. He takes this home to his mother, who proceeds to freak out. He runs down to the river and places the rat in a small shack, putting his sweater around the rat. We now return to the present, as the doctor injects Roger with some type of drug to get him ready for the concert.
Then we have another flashback and see young Roger sick in bed, with a very evil looking doctor checking him over and a fretful mother filling his mind with all her fears.
We see Roger going to check on the rat, but finding it dead he picks it up and drops it in the river. Then we return to the desert scene where we see someone resembling his father carrying the dead rat, and staring right into our eyes. He is followed by the teacher, the doctor, and many soldiers.
Now Roger is dressed for the concert. He is dragged down the hallway and begins to transform into a worm. His flesh becomes grotesque, and when he reaches the limousine the metamorphosis is complete. He tears away his shell and we see a jackbooted thug, in the spirit of Hitler. Waters explains, "The worms are symbols of negative forces within ourselves, [of] decay. The worms can only get at us because there isn't any light or whatever in our lives" (pg. 226, Saucerful of Secrets).
During "The Show Must Go On," Roger faces the pain of touring. He has sold his soul to the devil. He has lost all feeling. He has traded away his humanity.
Finding himself with an unfamiliar soul, Roger now begins to create a chaotic future.
Waters explains, "The idea is we've been changed from the lovable old Pink Floyd that we all know and love into our evil alter egos" (pg. 226, Saucerful of Secrets). We now see the transformed Roger with a group of Neo-nazis escorting him to the show.
As they enter the hall, everyone cheers them and Roger pulls out the good politician routine as he lifts up small children and kisses them. The crowd then begins to chant "Pink Floyd" which slowly becomes "Hammer." "In The Flesh" begins with the aid of a band and choir.
Pink isn't well he stayed back at the hotel
And they sent us along as a surrogate band
And we're going to find out where you fans
Are there any queers in the theater tonight
Get em' up against the wall
There's one in the spotlight
He don't look right to me
Get him up against the wall
That one looks Jewish
And that one's a coon
Who let all this riff raff into the room?
There's one smoking a joint and
Another with spots
If I had my way
I'd have all of you shot!"
Roger then leaves the crowd of skinheads at London's New Horticultural Hall, and we see the crowd begin to systematically dance. The crowd then becomes a mass of faceless, selfless people. As "Run Like Hell" begins, we see an older gentleman dragged down by a dog. Then we see the gruesome image of three men hanged to death in the desert. We also watch as a group of these thugs destroy an African-American cafe.
Now we see the army of the alter egos setting up a stage in the center of a street in London. The thugs marching in time bring about Scarfe's images of the marching hammers, and the beat gives rise to "Waiting for the Worms."
We see Roger standing on the stage screaming part of the song through a loudspeaker.
As people protest these injustices, they are physically pushed down and out of the way, by the thugs. Frightened older people can be seen closing their curtains and locking their doors. Suddenly, something seems to snap in Roger's head. He screams, "STOP!" and the "evil alter ego" vanishes.
The scene shifts to a bathroom. In a stall, looking like the tattered individual sitting in the apartment during "Nobody Home," Roger cradles himself between the toilet and the wall.
Take off this uniform
And leave the show
And I'm waiting in this cell
Because I have to know
Have I been guilty all this time?" Seeing the painful error in his ways, he cries in horror at himself. I see Roger ripping off the uniform at the concert in Berlin, and tossing it to the ground. Returning to himself, he prepares for "The Trial."
His soul is now being examined. The prosecution is his teacher, wife, and mother.
As his teacher, wife, and mother all testify, respectively, the evidence seems to build up against Pink. During the trial, he begins to question his sanity and the forces which made him build his wall.
Scarfe's imagery is heart wrenching as we see a fragile Pink slowly transform into a leaf, floating downward. As "The Trial" concludes we hear the judge's decision.
The giant wall separating Roger from humanity comes tumbling down in a sea of cheers from the crowd. Hundreds of bricks crash onto the stage, and the company rises for an encore.
In Roger's pain we can see not only the reason for building these walls, but the necessity of tearing them down. "Outside the Wall" is Roger's explanation of the complexities of the walls within ourselves and society.
The closing scene depicts three children picking up the remnants of bricks. The final picture is a young child removing the rag from a Molotov cocktail and pouring out the gasoline in disgust, symbolizing an end to the riots and private wars within society.
Hanging on the walls of my room are two posters: one depicting Roger's face screaming at the world, the other of Scarfe's marching hammers. For me, these two posters represent The Wall in its complexity. When I gaze into the void of Roger's mouth I see the pain and despair of a life lived in agony. I feel the horrors of war, and the injustices of the soul. I see an individual full of distress, living behind his wall. When I stare at the columns of marching hammers I see the reason for tearing down these walls. I hear the distant echoes of Hitler, Stalin, Thatcher, and Reagan, all persecuting life in their own ways. I see the result of an internal breakdown within a society, such as occurred on April 29th and 30th, 1992, during the Los Angeles riots. I recognize all the walls of racism, monetarism, violence, fear, and hatred which exist within society, keeping us apart, and I hear Roger's screams to tear them all down. "After all, it's not easy banging your head against some mad bugger's wall."