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Film profile/review by David King

Director: Barbet Schroeder.
Producer: Barbet Schroeder.
Screenplay and Dialogue: Paul Gegauff and Barbet Schroeder.
Script: Monique Giraudy and Janine Everard. Director of Photography: Nestor Almendros.
Music: The Pink Floyd.
Jet Films, 1969.
Stefan: Klaus Grünberg. Estelle: Mimsy Farmer. Wolf: Heinz Engelmann.
Charlie: Michel Chanderli. Cathy: Louise Wink. Henry: Henry Wolf.

Introduction

Even though the director of More, Barbet Schroeder, has recently attained considerable critical and commercial success with his films "Single White Female" and "Kiss of Death", his earlier films still languish in considerable obscurity. In fact, it is probably fair to say that only Pink Floyd fans are really interested in More and La Vallee - and such fans have done little to dispel the obscurity surrounding these films. As an example, there are two well-respected Pink Floyd books that claim More to be a French-language film, when in fact the film’s main language is English (although there are sequences not only in French but also German and Spanish).

Other critics tend to be unsure of whether More is a good or bad film. Most agree that its photography is exquisite, but there is no consensus as to whether there are problems with other aspects of the film. Vincent Canby, writing in The New York Times, complains that the film is “arbitrarily structured, but that the acting is fine”; Jan Dawson perceives the film as a tragedy but then objects that Stefan is not a tragic figure; and Stephen Scheuer, in an early version of Movies on TV, gives the film two stars but in a later version gives it four. For Pink Floyd fans the important question is: how well does the music fit in with the film? In that which follows I will attempt to answer this question.

Background

Details concerning the events surrounding Pink Floyd’s involvement in More are not easy to find. Nicholas Schaffner, for example, in Saucerful of Secrets, says merely that in early 1969 the band were “invited” to compose a full-length musical soundtrack to a film. It is as well then that Roger Waters himself provides more information: “We did the More soundtrack as a sort of personal favor for Barbet. He showed us the movie - which he’d already completed and edited - and explained what he wanted; and we just went into the studio and did it.” The words “personal favour” clearly point to some kind of social bond between Schroeder and the band. It is not clear, however, whether there was any subsequent dialogue between Schroeder and Pink Floyd while they recorded the music.

For reasons I'll give later, I highly doubt Schroeder always adhered to Pink Floyd’s choice of what music should accompany what scene. If this is so, one startling possibility is that Pink Floyd may be unaware of such departures. Rick Wright, for one, admits in an interview never to have seen the finished movie. Whatever, the score was completed in eight days, and each member of the band was paid £600 for doing it.

Schaffner quotes Waters as saying of the film-music composition process: “It’s not the same process as making your own music for yourself - much more hurried, and less care tends to be taken”. I don’t think it should be concluded from this that Pink Floyd’s soundtrack music is slapdash. Instead, I think the situation is that the presence of visual images supplies constraints that would normally be provided by the band themselves, allowing them to work more quickly.

The Story & The Music

The beginning of More is extremely striking, and comprises shots directed straight at the sun. As the credits appear, the camera moves in on the sun, which in turn develops haloes, disappears into clouds before emerging again, and so on. The sun is the dominant symbol of the film. It is that which can simultaneously give life and destroy. As might be expected, the music accompanying these first images is the Main Theme of More; and the hesitant organ and ominous effects reflect well two of the important moods later in the film.

The next scene provides a strong contrast. We see not sun, but rain, and Stefan, the hero, trying to hitch a lift to Paris. In desperation, he holds a message up to the passing vehicles. At this point, the following notice (from the director) appears as a caption on the screen:

    November 25, 1964, in Tangiers I attended the funeral of
    Hans D, a friend who died the day before, at the age of 24.
    With his family’s approval, I have attempted to retrace the
    last six months of his life, piecing together as much information
    as I could gather from his diary, notes and recollections from his
    friends.
    P.S. May the story of Hans save others from the same fate.
At this point an English truck driver stops and gives Stefan a lift. We hear a voice-over: “I finished my studies in May. I wanted to live. I wanted to burn all the bridges, all the formulas. And if I got burned, that was okay too. I wanted to be warm. I wanted the sun, and I went after it.”

After the truck driver drops Stefan off, we see him in a bar, betting money in a card game against a character later revealed to be Charlie. Immediately, however, there is a puzzle, for the music playing in the background is Ibiza Bar - and, of course, Stefan is not yet in Ibiza. It is discrepancies such as this that I was referring to a few paragraphs ago - discrepancies that suggest, I think, that Schroeder gave himself a free hand to match Pink Floyd’s music with different scenes. Regardless, the lyrics in this version of Ibiza Bar are clearer than those on the soundtrack album version.

Stefan loses a considerable amount of money to Charlie, but the latter is easy-going and in fact soon befriends Stefan. It transpires that Charlie too has money worries; before long they are planning to rob a house together. The next scene, though not of the robbery, is at a party where Stefan meets the woman who is to represent his personal sun, Estelle. (‘Estelle’, of course, means ‘star’.) The music playing in the background is The Nile Song - the lyrics of which virtually tell the story of More (although the reference to the Nile is purely whimsical, and is probably there because the word ‘Nile” rhymes easily with others in the song). As soon as Stefan catches sight of Estelle, we hear a voice-over from him: “I fell in love at first sight”. Then the music changes to Seabirds, a song left off the soundtrack album. Exactly why the song was omitted is not clear, but it's certainly one of Pink Floyd’s “catchiest” tracks. For those who do not own a copy of The Pink Floyd Song Book, the lyrics to Seabirds are as follows:

    Mighty waves come crashing down
    The spray is lashing high into the eagle’s eye
    Shrieking as it cuts the devil wind, is calling sailors to the deep
    But I can hear the sound of seabirds in my ear
    And I can see you smile
    Surf is high an’ the sea is awash
    an' a haze of candy floss, glitter and beads
    Rock that we sat on and watched in the sun
    That was hot to the touch
    And the sea was an emerald green
    I can hear the sound of seabirds in my ear
    And I can see you smile
    Surf comes rushing up the beach
    Now will it reach the castle wall and will it fall
    Catfish dappled silver flashing
    Dogfish puffing bubbles in my deep.
Each verse of the song is accompanied by a barrage of guitar-sound and drums, which not only captures the “crashing down” of the “mighty waves” but also makes an effective contrast with Roger Waters’ hushed vocals in the chorus. Apparently the only known cover-version of the song, by Langford and Kerr, does not preserve this instrumental quality. Incidentally, the fact that later in the film the camera spends some time on a flock of seabirds seems to support my conjecture above: that being that Schroeder abandoned some of Pink Floyd’s original matching of music with scene. The first verse we hear is number three; then, after the chorus, we hear what is presumably a reprise of number two.

Despite the fact that Charlie warns Stefan about Estelle, we soon see Stefan chatting with her in the kitchen. Meanwhile, Charlie is stealing money from her purse, which she has left among the partying guests. Soon afterwards, Charlie presses Stefan to leave with him, waiting until they are far from the party before telling him that he has just robbed Estelle. Stefan immediately wants to return the money - 200 Francs - to her, but Charlie manages to convince him that he can do that later. The music accompanying Charlie and Stefan’s departure is also absent from the soundtrack album, and is a kind of a variation or improvisation, dominated by organ and bass guitar, on a passage of the Main Theme.

After the robbery scene - Stefan and Charlie use a glass-cutter to open a window of a richly furnished house - the action shifts to Estelle’s apartment. Stefan says he has come to return the stolen 200 Francs, but then admits that he really just wanted to see her again. Estelle is not wholly unflattered by Stefan’s intentions. While they talk, she idly turns on her cassette player, and we hear Cymbaline. The version of the song is again different from the one on the soundtrack album. For a start, the vocals are by Roger Waters rather than David Gilmour (spelled “Gilmore”, incidentally, in the credits); also the instrumental coda is much longer. The main difference, though, is that instead of the words “will the tightrope reach the end? Will the final couplet rhyme?”, we hear the lyrically weaker “Standing by with a book in his hand/It’s an easy word to rhyme”.

While Estelle changes, Stefan distractedly explores her apartment. He soon uncovers a stash of marijuana, and naively asks Estelle what it is. Estelle promptly rolls a joint, which she shares with Stefan. She is amused when his first drag produces nothing but coughing. She shows him the proper way to inhale, and cleverly, the rhythm of her inhalation matches the shimmering pulses of sound towards the end of Cymbaline. There is clearly no doubt, then, that Pink Floyd intended Cymbaline to accompany this scene. Stefan observes that the marijuana is having no effect on him, that he doesn’t feel anything at all; lying beside him on the bed, Estelle closes his eyes - a symbolic act, if ever there was one - and says “you will”. Shortly afterwards, Stefan finds on Estelle’s arm a strange mark. She explains that she used to take heroin, and that the mark is the result of an infection caused by a dirty needle. Stefan is shocked by this, but the conversation soon turns to Ibiza, where Estelle intends to spend the summer. She invites him to come with her. He agrees, but only after he has completed his ‘deal’.

The next scene is Stefan on the ferry to Ibiza. Arriving, he goes into a bar to buy a cup of coffee and ask for the address of “Wolf”, with whom Estelle said she would be staying. The music accompanying this scene is another (brief) instrumental not on the soundtrack album. Dominated by ‘jangly’ guitar sound, its melody is not unlike the coda of Cymbaline. It also features an unusual kind of ‘waa-waa’ guitar effect that is also present on Seabirds but is not, so far as I know, used by Pink Floyd anywhere else.

Arriving at Estelle’s hotel, Stefan is curtly informed by an attendant that Estelle is not expecting him, and that she has not been there for two days. Playing in the background is a version of A Spanish Piece. It is different from the one on the album not only in that it lacks David Gilmour’s vocals, but also that it features a mandolin (again, the only occasion that Pink Floyd have used one). It turns out that the hotel is merely owned by Wolf; so, after extracting Wolf’s address from the attendant, Stefan makes his way there. He finds Wolf playing a knife-throwing game with some friends. Stefan has a drink with Wolf, and asks him (in German) about Estelle. On his way back to Estelle’s, Stefan stops at a street cafe where a man, Henry, gives him a Purple Heart, and warns him about Wolf, who, we later learn, is the island’s main heroin distributor.

Arriving at the hotel, Stefan finds her already there. She greets him coolly, but gradually thaws, caressing his hand. At this point, Wolf drops in for a few moments; Stefan reacts jealously. He asks Estelle whether he may stay with her. After a few feeble excuses, she bluntly tells him that he gets on her nerves. Her mood soon changes again, however. She apologizes to Stefan, and invites him to lie on the bed next to her, saying: “Do whatever you like. I warn you. I won’t move. I won’t even think about it.”

The next scene is of a post-coital Estelle and Stefan. Here I am going to be wildy speculative and suggest that originally there was a scene of anal intercourse, but that the decision was made to edit it out. (It is a fact that the original version of the film was four minutes longer than the one on general release.) My reason for saying this is not only that the scene has a very ‘edited’ feel but also that Estelle’s words seem designed to warn the viewer that something unconventional is about to happen. Most importantly, the existence of Up the Khyber points overwhelmingly in the direction I am suggesting. For a start, ‘Khyber’ is Cockney rhyming-slang for ‘arse’. Then there are the piece’s thrusting piano-stabs, its heartbeat-like drumming (and its post-coital collapse of sound at the end!). ‘Khyber’ certainly doesn’t refer to, as a recent book on Pink Floyd claims, the hippies’ associations. Up the Khyber still appears in the film, but later, and in a version significantly different form the one that is familiar (and that may have been edited out).

Stefan again asks Estelle about Wolf; she evades the question by inviting him to a party that night. At the party, she welcomes Stefan warmly. The music in the background is The Party Sequence, but it is a much more impressive and developed piece than it is on the soundtrack album. For a start, it's much longer. Also, it features vigorous and melodious guitar-strumming (thus explaining David Gilmour’s credit as one of its writers). The pace of the track varies depending on the action taking place. It stops altogether when an opium-pipe is passed around; however, it soon restarts. Cathy - whom Estelle introduces as her girlfriend (which she turns out literally to be) - warns Stefan against drinking alcohol after taking opium. He ignores this advice, and soon becomes aggressive with Estelle, slapping her on the face. Despite his taunting her about her relationship with Wolf, they are soon in a room by themselves. In the morning, however, Estelle is gone. Stefan, finding a note on his pillow, goes outside. All that remains of The Party Sequence is a solitary slow bongo.

The next scene is of Stefan and Estelle walking along the shore. He is trying to persuade her to move with him into a house, on the other side of the island, that he has been lent. Estelle is worried about Wolf’s reaction to such a plan. Nevertheless, she agrees to let Stefan pick her up at 3 in the morning. We soon see her hastily packing, and concealing in her underwear a packet of what later turns out to be Wolf’s heroin. As they drive off they see Wolf in the street, who reacts angrily.

The next few scenes are of Stefan and Estelle’s life on the other side of the island - swimming, sunbathing, and smoking joints. Stefan also tells Estelle about the members of a Calcutta cult who worship the sun, staring at it until they go blind. Shortly after this the music is Green is the Color, and it ends, significantly, with the line “Sunlight on her eyes...” While it plays, Stefan is sitting on a rock while Estelle dances in a white dress (as the words to the song would suggest). The version of the song seems to be the same as that on the album; its wistfulness fits well with the action, but there is the feeling that disaster awaits just around the corner.

After this, a voice-over tells us that Estelle is too nervous to leave their house. Returning from the market, Stefan hears talking inside the house. He pauses to listen. Inside, Estelle and Cathy are making love and talking about heroin. When Estelle comes out, Stefan asks her a few veiled questions. Estelle changes the subject by saying that she’s worried about Cathy, and that Stefan ought to make love to her. This he does, and before long Estelle joins in as well.

The next scene is of Stefan returning to the house. He is looking for Estelle, and soon sees her against some rocks by the sea. She is unresponsive (he doesn’t know that she’s just taken a shot of heroin). After carrying her back to the house, however, he soon learns what she’s done, and is furious. Estelle swears that she won’t take heroin again. Shortly afterwards they are smoking opium together, discussing the lifestyle of hippies as compared with heroin users. Quicksilver accompanies this scene, and its tranquillity is well-suited to the scene’s calm atmosphere. The music ends with a shot of Estelle turning off her cassette player - what appears to be merely mood-creating background music is thus revealed to be something that Stefan and Estelle are actually listening to. The effect is to give the film a ‘becoming-real’ quality.

Estelle soon tries to talk Stefan into taking heroin. At first he declines angrily, but when she asks him whether he’s afraid, he allows her to prepare some for him. His first hit he describes as “fantastic”, and despite Estelle’s warnings, he has another. This time he becomes sick. So, determined not to ‘end on a bad note’, so to speak, he has a third fix. Shortly afterwards we see him and Estelle studying mercury sloshing around in a dish. The music, again, is Quicksilver, and given that ‘quicksilver’ is the old name for mercury, there is little doubt that Pink Floyd intended Quick silver to accompany these images.

At this stage - no doubt to mirror what is happening to Stefan - the film becomes slightly fragmentary. Stefan and Estelle are shown eating; then Stefan is shown smoking a joint. A snippet of Cirrus Minor forms the accompaniment to the latter. The music begins with the words “Waving to the river daughters”, and when the vocals develop their impressively distant sound (on the words “On a trip to Cirrus Minor/Saw a crater in the sun”), the camera slowly zooms out in effective synchronization. Note, incidentally, the symbolic importance of the words ‘crater in the sun’. Roger Waters may be alluding to the darkness at the heart of every ‘light’ experience.

Following in the fragmentary vein of this part of the film, Stefan and Estelle then prepare a kind of drug cocktail containing, among other things, hash, nutmeg, banana peel and Benzedrine. This sends them wild. They rush outside and dance about, and then Stefan - like Don Quixote - attacks the windmill shown on the cover of the album, declaring it to be the enemy. (It is probably no coincidence that Estelle’s surname is "Miller”.)

Stefan injures his foot while battling with the windmill, so it is Estelle who has to do the shopping at the market. She is soon apprehended by some of Wolf’s men. Wolf bluntly delivers an ultimatum: either they pay for the heroin she has stolen - his suggestion is that Stefan work in his bar - or he will arrange for the authorities to have them sent to prison for a few years. Estelle returns that evening, and finds Stefan desperate for a fix.

After Estelle gives it to him, she explains the situation, and Stefan reluctantly agrees to do what Wolf wants. Shortly afterwards, we see him working at the bar, pouring orange juice and handing out discreetly packaged doses of heroin. More Blues is playing in the background, and although, given Stefan’s dejection, I am sure that Pink Floyd’s intention was for Ibiza Bar to accompany this scene, which would have been appropriate. Apart from the fact that the piece does not accompany any of the Ibiza bar scenes, Roger’s lyrics - particularly “I’m so afraid of mistakes that I have made” - point obviously to Stefan’s situation.

Crying Song forms the backdrop to Stefan’s return home. I’m not entirely convinced, however, that it fits the scene. To be sure, Stefan does “climb and climb”, but it’s stairs he climbs and not the pine-studded slope hinted at in the song. On the other hand, the piece’s slow tempo is suggestive of end-of-the-working-day tiredness. The song continues as he changes clothes. Estelle is painting a picture and, like Stefan, is in a bad mood. When she leaves the room, Stefan presses some buttons on her cassette player, and the version of Up The Khyber mentioned previously plays instead. In this version, the organ predominates and the piano sound is wholly absent. If my earlier conjecture about Up The Khyber is correct, Schroeder may be using a quasi-reprise of the instrumental to contrast Stefan and Estelle’s situation now with what it was then.

Unbeknownst to Stefan, Estelle is giving herself a shot of heroin - under the tongue. Stefan comes in, and is furious that she’s been taking the drug on her own and behind his back... Before long they are shown attempting to cure themselves using LSD (which, of course, in the early 60s was used to treat alcoholism), of their heroin-dependence. After they take their trips, they catch a taxi to the sea, where they sit on a cliff and chant. It is this scene that provides the picture for the rear of the More album sleeve. To suggest the hallucinatory state, Schroeder again uses the shimmering Quicksilver, matching it this time with stills of such things as magnified leaves and butterfly wings. For Stefan, the trip is very positive, but for Estelle it quickly becomes the opposite - she sees Stefan as the devil. Nevertheless, after the effects subside they tell themselves that they are free of heroin.

Back at the bar, we again hear the variation on the Main Theme. Thanks to the LSD, Stefan experiences a new sense of kinship with the people around him - even Wolf. It is perhaps for this reason that Stefan is not disturbed at the idea of leaving Estelle to talk with Wolf. Once he returns to their room, however, he wonders how he could have been so stupid. The Dramatic Theme plays as he paces about. Assuming that Pink Floyd did intend Dramatic Theme to accompany this scene, the ‘drama’ is no doubt that which is going on in Stefan’s head, for he soon takes out some heroin again.

Next there is a voice-over. We learn that it is winter, and that both Stefan and Estelle are hooked once more. There is a reprise of the Main Theme as the voice-over emphasizes that, as heroin users, they are outcasts of their own micro-society. Soon, however, Charlie arrives. As he repeats his warning to Stefan about Estelle, there is another reprise. This time of Green is the Colour, which in a way is Estelle’s signature tune. But where is Estelle? Stefan searches for her back at their lodgings, and even asks passersby of her whereabouts. But, she doesn’t return until late at night, desperate for a fix. Stefan, however, won’t let her have any until she tells him the truth about her relationship with Wolf. It turns out that she has regularly been sleeping with Wolf even though she doesn’t like him.

The film is now nearly over. Charlie enters and asks what all the racket was about. Stefan simply replies that Estelle gone. Puzzled by Stefan’s dejection, Charlie asks him whether that was what he wanted. Stefan replies “No, it was what you wanted” and immediately goes out to look for Estelle. He goes to Wolf’s place, but Estelle fails to emerge. Running into Henry, he asks for some heroin, explaining that he got rid of all his heroin-related paraphernalia. Henry gives him two packets, warning him to go easy and not to take both at once. But, Stefan immediately prepares the heroin. The last we see of him is when he reels onto the street, dead. A voice-over accompanies the funeral procession (Charlie and Henry are present). We learn that because the islanders thought he’d committed suicide, they wouldn’t give him a religious funeral. We are also informed that even though it is winter, the sun is shining. The last shot is of the sun.

I think More is an excellent film - and readers should take advantage of the fact that it is still available (in America on laserdisc and in France on SECAM video). But even if nothing else, it proves the lie to the view that there is virtually nothing in the Pink Floyd archives that the record-buying public hasn’t heard. Apart from Seabirds and the instrumentals that don’t appear on the soundtrack album, there are alternate versions of Cymbaline, The Party Sequence and Up the Khyber. As I’ve said before, film provides a discipline that brings out the best in Pink Floyd; and More is a remarkable example of just how effective their film music can be.


Editor's Note: David King, a fan of Pink Floyd and subscriber of Brain Damage, is a successful Australian novelist who has submitted analytical articles covering each of the movies for which Pink Floyd have recorded soundtracks.

This article originally appeared in Brain Damage Magazine issue 40

 
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