Film Reviews

REVIEW: Roger Waters The Wall

TIFF Docs 2014: This smart rockumentary conveys art’s role as a tool for personal healing and inspiring greater social change.

Roger Waters The Wall
(UK, 133 min.)
Dir. Sean Evans, Rogers Waters
Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)

The Toronto International Film Festival proves itself the rock concert of film festivals with its Special Presentation screening of Roger Waters The Wall. It’s an immersive and utterly electrifying documentary of Waters’ tour. The film easily jumps to the top of the list of great concert docs.

Roger Waters The Wall gives moviegoers the full experience of the booming event as Waters and fellow director Sean Evans present the concert in which a massive 500-foot wall builds throughout the performance. As Waters leads the band through some of Pink Floyd’s greatest hits, The Wall rises with bombast and fury. Images of war, propaganda, death, and violence pepper the wall, which serves a double purpose as a full-fledged projection screen. The Wall is both a spectacular performance piece and a provocative work of contemporary art.

It’s much more than a concert film as Waters and Evans take the inspiration behind The Wall’s iconic power to offer an unexpectedly poetic reflection on the devastating losses wrought by war. The directors offer an embedded narrative in which Waters remembers his father who was killed in the Second World War. The film opens with a poignant image of Waters visiting his father’s grave, carrying a trumpet with which to pay tribute to him, and the sequence evolves as The Wall builds. Waters invests his own history in the evolution and effect of The Wall and situates the loss of his father within the greater story told by the images of victims of violence that appear projected on the wall during the concert.

The dramatic/autobiographical interludes of the film smartly complement the theatricality of The Wall using a sleek, poetic appeal. Waters visits the grave again with his family and he travels a winding road, joined by friends and ghosts of the past, as the film injects a palpable sense of loss into the story behind the lyrics of The Wall’s many songs. The lyricism of these interludes has a strong music video aesthetic, which lets Waters’ story feel like a natural fit for echoing the personal elements of the music. From the giant inflatable pig of the concert to the gargantuan set-piece of the wall itself to the surreal war imagery of the dramatic intercuts, Rogers Waters The Wall is invigoratingly designed to absorb the viewer in the urgent pulse of the music.

Roger Waters The Wall is powerful not simply for the epic scope and energy of the concert, but for the way the threads of the film combine like the harmony of a great orchestration. The film is a wild experience even if taken at the basic level of a concert film, but this smart rockumentary ultimately conveys art’s role as a tool for personal healing and inspiring greater social change.

Roger Waters The Wall screens:
Sunday, Sept. 14 at 8:30 pm at Scotiabank 12

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Pat Mullen is POV’s Associate Online Editor, etc. He covers film at Cinemablographer.com, and has contributed to The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, BeatRoute, Modern Times Review, and Documentary magazine and is a member of the Toronto Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society. You can reach him at @cinemablogrpher

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