Documentary / Music / Reviews

Roger Waters The Wall (2015) review

Roger Waters The WallStarring: Roger Waters

Written by: Roger Waters and Sean Evans

Directed by: Roger Waters and Sean Evans

This is a full performance of The Wall interspersed with a documentary of Roger Waters visiting the graves of his relatives lost in war.

One of the greatest rock n roll albums of all time is Pink Floyd‘s The Wall.  It is a truly stunning album that is just as good today as it was in 1979 when it was released.  After the notorious breakup of Pink Floyd, Roger Waters got the rights to the album while David Gilmour got the rights to the name.  This visually stunning film, filmed in 4K, takes us through the entirety of the album, in chronological order, and let’s us experience the stage spectacle that Roger Waters set up between 2010 and 2013 during his most recent tour of The Wall.  It also features a documentary following Roger Waters as he travels to France, where his grandfather was killed during World War I, and Italy, where his father was killed during World War II.

It has never been questioned that Roger Waters is an egomaniac, and that is clearly evident in the documentary portion of this film.  Honestly, I actually hesitate calling this portion of the film a documentary.  Sure, it chronicles his trip to the graves, but along the way he stops for a drink or three in a pub that suspiciously has no one else inside other than the bartender who doesn’t speak English.  All the while, Waters is telling him the story of how his father was killed at the Anzio bridgehead.  “One more for the road,” he says and the bartender manages to understand that.  As he drives, he glances over to the passenger seat and sees a World War II soldier sitting next to him.  Another time, as he continues to drive, he looks to the field to the right, and sees a German officer executing a British soldier.  As you can probably tell, it seems that Roger Waters has learned his documentary skills from Michael Moore, who is notorious for setting up his documentaries.

Roger Waters The Wall HammerUnfortunately, this style of “documentary” is less documentary and more visually gorgeous scripted film.  Never once did I fall for that part of the film actually being a documentary.  It also detracts from the amazing production and performance of The Wall.  While I know that visiting these markers of World Wars past is a tremendously personal journey for Waters, it doesn’t translate into scintillating cinema for Pink Floyd fans who want to see The Wall performed live.  I feel it would have been better served to be a standalone documentary with an actual documentarian doing the film and eschewing the scripted elements altogether.

Despite my issues with the documentary portion of the film, the performance of The Wall is staggering in it’s presentation and scope.  This was easily one of the biggest stage productions ever performed.  As you watch, you can catch glimpses of the army of crew needed to pull this off, on top of the performers other than Waters.  It is a jaw-dropping, beautiful performance despite Waters bleeding heart liberalism pouring through.  As he croons:

Mother should I run for President?
Mother should I trust the government?

in big, bold, Gerald Scarfe lettering, we see ‘No Fucking Way!’ emblazoned across the wall.  It is heavy handed, to be sure, but I can only imagine how entertaining it was to be standing in that crowd, feeling the electricity of this great album being played live.

I know I sound like I didn’t enjoy this film.  It sounds like I am tearing it apart.  Yes, I did have a few problems with the film, but it was a stunning performance and I loved almost every minute of it.  Despite what you may personally think of Roger Waters, you do have to admit that The Wall is one of the greatest albums ever recorded and that this performance is staggering not just in presentation but logistically as well.  I really dug the film, with the few caveats above.  If you are a Pink Floyd fan, I would encourage you to pick this up when it is released on Blu-Ray on December 1, 2015.

*** out of ****

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