Film Review: ‘Pink Floyd – The Wall’
Another wall in the brick
‘Pink Floyd The Wall’, 1982
Pink Floyd’s The Wall touches on nearly as many of capitalism’s social evils as any issue of the Socialist Standard; except, of course, for an analysis of the cause of the problems. The film depicts with powerful imagery some of the contradictions of capitalist society. Capitalism is represented as the Wall — bureaucratic, alienating and destructive and made up of homogeneous bricks (we workers, no less) plastered together in hideous uniformity. From childhood it moulds workers into blind, submissive bricks in a structure which then exploits their ignorance and apathy for its own purposes.
The film portrays school-children unquestioningly falling into sausage-machines, where they are turned into uniform shapes for the easy digestion of society. The purpose of education in our Buying and Selling Of People System (in suitable sausage form after the authoritarian schooling) couldn’t have been more basically, and starkly, portrayed.
The eternally-flying white dove of peace soon explodes into the monstrous eagle of war, revealing both war and peace as products of the Wall society. Soldiers are shown as people at home see them (and as they most commonly are) —as prey of their murderous devices. The war brings them, however, only suffering and destruction. When it ended the soldiers waving from trains are received to the song of Bring The Boys Back Home, while a little boy helplessly searching for his missing father is testimony that not all the boys are brought home. The next theme of continuing war in the minds of the living is embodied in the fatherless boy, who is haunted in his sausage-forming years by war images so overwhelming and incomprehensible. The child becomes a rock-star (played by Bob Geldof, lead singer of the Boomtown Rats), and yet another controlled brick of the establishment.
This rock-star is but a puppet commodity, not unlike the school headmaster whom we witness in one scene being controlled by strings from above. His mind and life have been drained by his success, and he finds himself alienated from the luxurious commodities that are his walls. This estrangement is further sharpened by his excessive viewing of television, particularly its extolling of the virtues of war and hierarchy, which so blatantly contradict his youth experiences of both war and school. But so absorbed is he by his lifestyle that his personal relationship and career are destroyed. He eventually has a nervous breakdown, culminating in a nihilistic act against his many possessions.
The politics of the film are very shallow and naive. Romantic visions of young people breaking through gates (there are many scenes of chained doors being broken into) only lead to opposition by the brute force of the state. The film also suggests a neo-Nazi regime as the possible, almost logical outcome of the political exploitation of the present disillusionment.
One line of a song in the film, sung by children in the chorus goes: “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control. No dark sarcasms in the classroom. Teacher leave them kids alone. All in all you’re just another brick in the wall”. So what’s wrong with a demolition job and the building of a free, democratic society in its place?