COMFORTABLY NUMB IN EMPTY SPACES: I have watched the movie ‘the Wall’ seven times in the past 12 years and it always remains haunting. Questioning. And always powerful. And while it outlined excerpts from the band members’ lives, parts of it are said to show Syd Barrett’s fall into schizophrenia. But this excerpt from the movie in the first video posted below is one of the most powerful animations I had seen on film when I’d first viewed it years back. And still remains to this day. (The flower is symbolic, as any man who has had his heart ripped would know.) As dark and symbolic as the whole movie is about a man’s existential crises, as he isolates himself from the apathy and chaos of the ‘usual’ ways of thinking around him, at least by the end of the film it ends on an ambiguous but positive note when he finally breaks free from the wall that he had made around himself one brick at a time.
The metaphorical film released in 1982 is rich in graphic, often disturbing imagery, music and symbolism and punctuated by animated sequences by political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. It was directed by Alan Parker and the screenplay written by Pink Floyd vocalist and bassist Roger Waters. Waters in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine had discussed that the album as well as the film were both derived partially from Jean-Paul Sartre’s story by the same name, which according to Waters had deeply moved him and changed the way he viewed life.
Pink Floyd’s music was always reflective. Contemplative. Haunting. I had first heard its sounds when my mother had used parts of the soundtrack from the Dark Side of the Moon album for a play she was directing. I was too young to understand much of what their lyrics or music signified at that age but later in architecture school (where they were madly popular) I began a very serious appreciation of both the creativity and departure-from-norm that their work had encompassed, away from the ‘pretty’ and lovey-dovey boy-bands that had won more hearts in the 60s and 70s. Pink Floyd instead was cerebral, intellectual, questioning – it tackled pondering and pain, not fluffy teenage fluttering hearts. I was blown away by their depth and imagery and music. The band had formed in London’s architecture school and its initial goofy name was ‘The Architectural Abdabs.’
Today I am finishing a book I had received sometime back: Pink Floyd & Philosophy: Careful with the Axiom, Eugene. Edited by George A. Reisch – professor of philosophy at the Northwestern University. An excerpt from the book’s back cover:
“What does the power of great art have to do with madness? Should psychedelic drugs make us doubt the evidence of our senses? How did power, sadism, and conformity turn education into mind control (not that we need either)? Can a rock band keep its identity as its members change? What can we learn from the synchronicities between The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz? Did Friedrich Nietzsche foreshadow Syd Barrett? When did you realize that you are the hole in reality? How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?
The existential, cinematic music of Pink Floyd made them one of the most influential and recognizable rock bands of all time. They didn’t do it by leaving their audiences comfortably numb, but by unsettling, disturbing, questioning, and criticizing.”
As I write this, it is one of those nights when from the sour warm depths of a spring evening, melancholy takes over; and after a while soaking in its darkness and stilling those questions, one begins to feel uncomfortably numb………
(Warning: Both videos have graphic content. And are very dark. Not for the faint-hearted. To be watched only during melancholic moods. And at night. Do not ruin your mornings by watching these….)
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For one of those nights when the shadows and voices of life and existence cannot remain still any longer – the movie The Wall is available here (in parts) :