The Writing On The Wall...
OK that's a pathetic pun, but still...a look at the concepts and meaning behind Pink Floyd's The Wall.
NOTE: Spoilers be here. Also, I have linked to some stills from the film which are fairly disturbing...although that is the intended effect.
The Wall basically deals with depression and, as a result of that, a complete breakdown of sanity. The protagonist, Pink, is beaten down all his life; his mother smothers him (Mother), his father was killed in an act of pointless sacrifice during World War II (When The Tigers Broke Free), his teachers destroyed his confidence (The Happiest Days Of Our Lives) and his wife cheats on him (Don't Leave Me Now). All the while, Pink is building The Wall of the title, designed to keep all those who could help him out and himself in, isolated from anything that could possibly hurt him. By the end of Disc One, Pink has completed the wall; this is impetus enough for him to go from being merely depressed (merely!) and cross over into madness.
In Disc Two, Pink has gone over the tipping point into total insanity. His manager finds him comatose in his hotel room, and enlists a doctor to wake him up (Comfortably Numb), however Pink is trapped behind the Wall and in a world of his own. In his mind, the concert he is about to perform is nothing but a Neo-Nazi rally (In The Flesh), and the image of him being a cold-blooded dictator comes fully formed into his mind (Run like Hell). He eventually rebels against this (Stop) and puts himself on trial (The Trial). At this trial, he finds himself to be responsible for a lot of his problems, for pushing away his wife and mother, and is ordered to tear down the Wall. In the end, he finds that the "bleeding hearts and artists" have been trying to reach out to him, but thanks to the wall that Pink has built up around himself their efforts were in vain. This is neatly summed up in the absolutely beautiful line "After all, it's not easy, banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall". In the end however, you don't know whether to feel sorry for Pink or to scold him; the Trial is quite vague on what the verdict is. Is it Pink's fault for not talking, or everyone else's fault for not listening? Maybe a bit of both; he was so far gone, he didn't care any more.
The film is an absolutely brilliant work of cinema, aided by disturbing, yet magnificent animations by the famed grotesque cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. Pink's wife and mother are represented by frankly frightening half anthropomorphic, half praying mantis flowers (image); as mentioned above, naked skeletonic people with gas masks for faces scurry about like insects during the Blitz (image); the constituent parts of the Union Jack fall away, leaving nothing but a bloody cross (image); hammers march, representing Pink's army of jackbooted thugs (probably one of Pink Floyd's most famous images, besides the refracting prism: image). During the Trial, Pink is represented by nothing more than a rag doll slumped against the Wall, cleverly showing his powerlessness against the forces of his own mind that brought him so low. (image)
The Wall is a brilliant work on depression and insanity, showing those who have probably never been so low just how terrible it is. My girlfriend is schizophrenic and clinically depressed, and this album (and its corresponding film) showed me something I hadn't fully understood before...what she faces, every single day, why it is hard to get her to open up, why she can't talk, why she looks like she doesn't care...no amount of E2 writeups, rambling LiveJournal entries or clinical encyclopedia pages could ever come this close to entering the mind of the person who is experiencing such utter hell first hand. Every single faux-depressed teenie goth, every single person who rambles about how painful their life is on their blog and about how they just can't cope any more in middle-class suburbia should be forced to watch the film to kick some perspective into them...
As Templeton identified above, it's a mindfuck, and one that comes very recommended, even for the faint of heart. Buy it, download it, whatever, just make sure to listen to it at least once in your lifetime..