“If I Had Been God, I Believe I Could Have Done A Better Job.” – US + Them (Film Review)

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It’s a weird thing ageing. Do not get me wrong, I am not necessarily an expert on the subject, being just 22 years-old (THAT’S STILL YOUNG) I have not done much of it in comparison to most. However, through my limited research and observations, one thing is clear: strange things develop in us as we get older. An urge to move to Cornwall, for instance. Or perhaps the desire to buy a sports car with a soft top that, through some engineering miracle, obscures the unexpected bald spot slithering on your skull. In some notable cases, you may see those who once espoused the virtues of shyness and love now vocally and doggedly backing division. We can become what we despise; we can distance ourselves from others and retreat into solipsism, spitting in the face of the other.

What’s more, ageing, in most people I have seen, brings out a sense of apathy that is masked as contentedness. Being just 22 years-old (Again THAT’S STILL YOUNG), by the time I am 76 I would hope I am content and have made my peace with the world. However, I fear that this contentedness might just result from me forging that famous aphorism Illegitimi non carborundum. And my ability to resist the perils within the status quo, be it through tiredness or a strange warping in political opinion, will diminish. I will become content with wrongdoing; I will become a sheep.

It is Roger Water’s ability to remain so angry, so enraged and so not content with the injustices he sees in the world despite his age that is the most impressive thing about Us + Them – a concert film shot over three nights in June 2018 during the Us +Them tour stop in Amsterdam. As the lyrics from his 2017 single Déjà Vu suggests, Waters still believes that he had/can do a better job than the ruling forces governing the world.

Slogans are flashing throughout the highly lavish performance reading “Pigs rule the world”, “FUCK the pigs” and “Trump is a pig”. A flying pig is bearing the words “Stay human or die” that fizzles into a simple declaration that epitomises the concert’s sentiment: “Resit!”

It’s brutal and unabashed. But, most importantly, it is a statement with clear targets.

“Resist what or who?” reads a query on-screen during the interval. To which a flurry of replies dart across the screen: “pollution”, “fascism”, “profits from war”, and then snapshots of world leaders including notable British alumni Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron and Nigel Farage. To his credit, Roger Waters has been a long-time advocate of anti-authoritarianism, anti-war and anti-capitalist politics. However, what Us + Them does brilliantly is recontextualising his work in Pink Floyd (and boy do we get a lot of it in this spiralling setlist) in the current polarised political climate and highlights the prescient nature of those lyrics written throughout the 1970s – “Don’t be afraid to care.”

Following in the tradition of Waters’ The Wall, Us + Them is complete visual spectacle. Director of photography Brett Turnbull does not necessarily break the mould in terms of how he films the performers, but the canvas he is tasked with capturing is so intricately grand. On the stage is a 94-foot wide LED screen, which, mid-way through the performance is by a metal grid and 16 moving screens descend from the roof that transforms into the iconic Battersea Power Station. My one quibble with the film is that – and it is a stupid quibble (an admission they tell you to always avoid in film-review-school) – the arena-encompassing wide shots never quite capture the ‘live experience’ – simply put, I wished I was there.

In a subtle change from the original Dark Side Of The Moon title, the film is not titled Us And Them, but rather Us + Them. Although some may overlook this as a simple change designed to make tour/movie posters more aesthetically pleasing, one comes away from the film believing that replacing the “and” with a plus sign calls for the rejection of solipsism and a welcoming, loving mentality that is woven throughout Waters’ show. Although the legendary frontman does not speak much throughout the concert, he ends the show with a bitingly optimistic speech asking people to “rise up” and champion human rights. At a rugged 76-years-old, Roger Waters is not content with the world around him and is certainly striving for closeness.

Roger Waters  Us + Them, which is in cinemas for one more day this Sunday 6th October.

 

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