Pink Floyd—The Wall is a 1982 British live-action/animated musical film directed by Alan Parker based on the 1979 Pink Floyd album The Wall. The screenplay was written by Pink Floyd vocalist and bassist Roger Waters. The film is highly metaphorical and is rich in symbolic imagery and sound. It features very little dialogue and is mainly driven by the music of Pink Floyd.
The film contains fifteen minutes of elaborate animation sequences by the political cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe.
Even before the original Pink Floyd album was recorded, a film was intended to be made from it. However, the concept of the film was intended to be live footage from the album's tour, with Scarfe's animation and extra scenes. The film was going to star Waters himself. EMI did not intend to make the film, as they did not understand the concept.
Director Alan Parker, a Pink Floyd fan, asked EMI whether The Wall could be adapted to film. EMI suggested that Parker talk to Waters, who had asked Parker to direct the film. Parker instead suggested that he produce it and give the directing task to Scarfe and Michael Seresin, a cinematographer. Waters began work on the film's screenplay after studying scriptwriting books. He and Scarfe produced a special-edition book containing the screenplay and art to pitch the project to investors. While the book depicted Waters in the role of Pink, after screen tests, he was removed from the starring role; he was replaced with the punk musician Bob Geldof. In Behind the Wall, both Waters and Geldof later admitted to a story during casting where Geldof and his manager took a taxi to an airport, and Geldof's manager pitched the role to the singer, who continued to reject the offer and express his contempt for the project throughout the ride, unaware that the taxi driver was Waters' brother, who promptly proceeded to tell Waters about Geldof's opinion.
The iconic "marching hammers"
Since Waters was no longer in the starring role, it no longer made sense for the feature to include Pink Floyd footage, so the live film aspect was dropped. The footage culled from the five Wall concerts at Earl's Court from 13–17 June 1981 that were held specifically for filming was deemed unusable also for technical reasons as the fast Panavision lenses needed for the low light levels turned out to have insufficient resolution for the movie screen. Complex parts such as "Hey You" still had not been properly shot by the end of the live shows. Parker also managed to convince Waters and Scarfe that the concert footage was too theatrical and that it would jar with the animation and stage live action. After the concert footage was dropped, Seresin left the project and Parker became the only director connected to The Wall.
During production, Geldof suffered a cut to his hand while filming the destruction of the hotel room set as he pulls away the venetian blinds. The footage remains in the film. Also, it was discovered during the filming of the pool scenes that Geldof did not know how to swim. Interiors were shot at Pinewood Studios, and it was suggested that they suspend Geldof in Christopher Reeve's clear cast used for the Superman flying sequences from storage, but his frame was too small by comparison; it was then decided to use a similar mould for Helen Slater from Supergirl, which was a more acceptable fit, and he simply lay on his back.
The war scenes were shot on Saunton Sands in North Devon, which also featured on the cover of Pink Floyd's A Momentary Lapse of Reason, six years later.
The Wall was shown "out of competition" during the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.
The premiere at Cannes was amazing - the midnight screening. They took down two truckloads of audio equipment from the recording studios so it would sound better than normal. It was one of the last films to be shown in the old Palais which was pretty run down and the sound was so loud it peeled the paint of the walls. It was like snow - it all started to shower down and everyone had dandruff at the end. I remember seeing Terry Samuel there, who at the time was head of Warner Brothers, sitting next to Steven Spielberg. They were only five rows ahead of me and I'm sure I saw Steven Spielberg mouthing to him at the end when the lights came up, 'what the fuck was that?' And Samuel turned to me and then bowed respectfully.
What the fuck was that? indeed. It was like nothing anyone had ever seen before - a weird fusion of live action, story-telling and of the surreal.
The film's official premiere was at the Empire, Leicester Square in London, on 14 July 1982. It was attended by Pink Floyd members Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Nick Mason, but not Richard Wright, because he was no longer a member of the band. It was also attended by various celebrities including Bob Geldof (who plays the lead role in the film), Paula Yates, Gerald Scarfe, Pete Townshend, Sting, Roger Taylor, James Hunt, Lulu, and Andy Summers.
So it's difficult, painful and despairing, and its three most important artists came away from it with bad feelings. Why would anybody want to see it? Perhaps because filming this material could not possibly have been a happy experience for anyone—not if it's taken seriously.
The film opened with a limited release on 6 August 1982 and entered at #28 of the US box office charts despite only playing in one theatre on its first weekend, grossing over $68,000, a rare feat even by today's standards. The film then spent just over a month below the top 20 while still in the top 30. The film later expanded to over 600 theatres on 10 September, achieving #3 at the box office charts, below E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and An Officer and a Gentleman. The film eventually earned $22 million dollars before closing in early 1983. It earned its creators two British Academy Awards; 'Best Sound' for James Guthrie, Eddy Joseph, Clive Winter, Graham Hartstone & Nicholas Le Messurier; and 'Best Original Song' for Waters.
The film received generally favourable reviews. Reviewing The Wall on their television program At the Movies in 1982, film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the film "two thumbs up". Ebert described The Wall as "a stunning vision of self-destruction" and "one of the most horrifying musicals of all time...but the movie is effective. The music is strong and true, the images are like sledge hammers, and for once, the rock and roll hero isn’t just a spoiled narcissist, but a real, suffering image of all the despair of this nuclear age. This is a real good movie." Siskel was more reserved in his judgment, stating that he felt that the film’s imagery was too repetitive. However, he admitted that the "central image" of the fascist rally sequence "will stay with me for an awful long time." In February 2010, Roger Ebert added The Wall to his list of "great movies," describing the film as "without question the best of all serious fiction films devoted to rock. Seeing it now in more timid times, it looks more daring than in did in 1982, when I saw it at Cannes...It's disquieting and depressing and very good." It was chosen for opening night of Ebertfest 2010.
While Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film with a critics review of 65% rating (of 17 reviews), the community of the website ranked the film with an 88% (out of 375 reviews). Danny Peary wrote that the "picture is unrelentingly downbeat and at times repulsive...but I don't find it unwatchable - which is more than I could say if Ken Russell had directed this. The cinematography by Peter Bizou is extremely impressive and a few of the individual scenes have undeniable power."
Waters has expressed deep reservations about the film, saying that the filming had been "a very unnerving and unpleasant experience... we all fell out in a big way." As for the film itself, he said: "I found it was so unremitting in its onslaught upon the senses, that it didn't give me, anyway, as an audience, a chance to get involved with it," although he had nothing but praise for Geldof's performance. Parker, who frequently clashed with Waters and Gerald Scarfe, described the filming as "one of the most miserable experiences of my creative life." David Gilmour stated (on the "In the Studio with Redbeard" episodes of The Wall, A Momentary Lapse of Reason and On an Island) that the conflict between him and Waters started with the making of the film. Gilmour also stated on the documentary Behind The Wall (which was aired on the BBC in the UK and VH1 in the US) that "the movie was the less successful telling of The Wall story as opposed to the album and concert versions."