August 2, 2010

The Wave (2008) by Dennis Gansel

Director: Dennis Gansel
Cast: Jürgen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt, Jennifer Ulrich, Christiane Paul
Writers: Dennis Gansel (writer), Todd Strasser (novel) and Peter Thorwarth
Music: Heiko Maile
Production: German, 2008
Run Time: 107 minutes

Welcome back to Film Focus today I’m going to review The Wave (Die Welle) a German film that show how masses can be easy manipulated if only there is a strong leader. The film is directed by Dennis Gensel and it´s base on the novel “The Wave” by Todd Strasser, wich is a fictional adaptation of “The Third Wave” a teaching experiment run by Ron James in 1967 in a Cublerly High School.

The movie starts with Reiner Wenger, a history teacher that is finds difficult in getting his students to focus on his autocracy classes during the project week. After a discussion the students reach the conclusion that there is no way a dictatorship could established in modern Germany. Wenger decides to probe they are wrong so he start a psychological and sociological experiment with them. He starts by demanding all of their students to call him “Herr Wenger”, not Wenger as they used to. He also changed the order of the students in their desk , so students with high grades seat next to students with low grades, so all the students gets better marks on their exams (rising the general grades average) and to give them the idea of a group. Finally, he says that if any student wanted to make a remark they must stand up and give a short answer. Therefore, the crazy but engaging experiment begins, the students named the project “The Wave” and they even invent a salute to flash when other members are near. They decide to wear white shirt and jeans to remove class identity and individuality. Although all the students accept the experiment, two girls (Karo and Mona) questioned the whole idea.

Around the third day thing took a dark turn as the members of the Wave spray painted their logo throw around the town, they also started to be hostile to the people that weren’t in the Wave. At one, point the meet some local punk group in the street and start fighting at one point Tim takes out a fire gun breaking the fight. No one took the experiment more serious than Tim, a student that finally was accepted as a member of a social group. However, his fanaticism has gone too far, he is now obsessed as he found in the Wave what his family didn’t offer him. He even offers Wenger to be his personal bodyguard, something that calls the attention of the teacher. During the whole experiment nobody question the Wenger as all the students were doing well on their exams, the only one that strongly question the direction of the project is his wife who thinks that things got out of proportions and that Wenger is using this kids. The same night Karo, the student that was against the Wave confront his boyfriend, a member of the Wave, things went wrong and he punched her in the face. Knowing that he isn’t like that violent, he decides to tell the teacher what was going on. Finally, Wenger realized that the experiment has gone too far and things were getting out of control. Therefore, he called a meeting for the entire Wave members in the school auditorium.

Once the meeting begins, Wenger gives a very feverous speech, which finished with all the audience exalted. Marco who was now against the Wave because he realized that it makes him hostile towards others, was pointed as a “traitor”. Wenger demanded that he was brought to the stage and called the audience what they should do with him, soon the students realized the craziness of the request. Wenger reminds them the conclusion they reach a week ago,”there was no possibility that a dictatorship could rise once again in Germany”. They ask them to look around and see what they have done, they have hurt the people that they care, they trespass the very same rules they believe in and they even wanted to hurt a classmate. Wenger tells them that the Wave has to finish. Tim, who believes that the Wave was all he had, pulls a gun and not accepting that the Wave could be over shoot a student and them himself. The movie ends as Wenger is taken into custody while he passes the looks of his former students.
There are many things to talk out in this movie but I will try to stay out politics and focus on what´s important. I took interest in this movie as soon as I hear the main idea. Something that has always intrigued me was how people can be easily manipulated and how masses behave the way, they do. The movie does a great job in showing how this group of teenagers starts to participate in this project, starts to lose all of their individuality and wants more important nobody seems to realize that they are not following a good path. The idea of been part of a group is so strong in humans specially in teenagers who are always searching for way to belong. In the film we got the case of Tim, someone how is an outsider, not been part of any group. Tim soon realize that been in the Wave was a way to get some attention and admiration of the others, he is the one how paints the big Wave symbol in the cathedral and soon after that every boy congratulates him for been so brave.

You can also discuss if this was a good way to teach them about autocracy. I´m my opinion the teacher has gone too far, I knew bad things were going to happen, you can’t play with teenagers the way Wenger did, at some point they are going to start coming mistakes. It´s strange that no one complain to the school authorities about the changes in Wenger´s classes, maybe it´s me but I find it hard to take it. As I said in the introduction this movie was based on a real experiment done by Ron Jones, the results of the experiment was unknown to me but finding material to do the review I found out that Jones have written an article about the experiment. I will left a link to the article if any wants to read it, I think it´s very interesting. There are some differences with the novel, first, in the novel, the story takes place in a fictitious Gordon High School, in the US and it´s set in 1969. For the movie, the names of the characters were change so they sound more German. There was a big change, because in the novel, Tim doesn’t shoot another student or commit suicide. The teacher is neither taken into custody nor questioned. 

Well that´s was all I have to say about The Wave, I have a ton of things to say about this movie but the review would became more tedious, so for the next review I choose “Babel” a good movie to reflect on some topics, have a good night, see you.

By Sebastián Nadilo
Trailer: The wave (English subtitles)
Rock ´n´ Roll Highschool performed by El*Ke
Homezone – Digitalism (Electronic music fans must hear this one)
Link to the Third Wave article: Click Here

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