Director: Dennis Gansel.
Starring. Jürgen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt, Jennifer Ulrich. Germany. 1h 47m.
Based on: The Wave, by Todd Strasser
Some of the most daring and provocative dramas in modern cinema have come from the diverse experiments led by questionable scientists. In this case a loose canon of a teacher, Ron Jones who back in the early 60’s experimented the notion that a group of children could easily be led into a fascist regime after applying a totalitarian state in his classroom. He was fired once his dark social experiment was discovered but this led to a detailed book by Todd Strasser and then it’s adaption of the same name, The Wave.
Gansel draws on a gritty documentary style to his movie, with a very fluid camera and fly on the wall experiences are quickly paced and incredibly gut wrenching to see these hopeful youths fall into the abyss after being led to it by their outcast tutor.
A progressive high school tutor, often spoken down to by his peers, is denied the opportunity to teach his students about Anarchy so instead he half cocks up an idea after being challenged. The pupils are totally bored with learning about about the 3rd reich, they have seen it all before, learnt it for years and are tired for being ashamed for that chapter in history, so he challenges them to creating their own party, something positive an wonderful but they students are adamant that it can’t be done, they are too woke and so the game begins.
Between the typical classroom dramas the story begins to follow the tutor home and influences all aspects of his pupils’ lives and starts to take on their new politics the tutor recklessly allows. At first it’s really simple things like wearing a white shirt to identify each other, then it’s promptly onto group salutes, this was never going to end well, but how far will this project be pushed?
Certain characters really shine through not just the catalysts of the sometimes strained narrative there is the classical withdrawn loner but so many of the students really pioneer the whole ambience of young wanna be helpfuls who are unknowing walking straight into shameful oblivion. The notion of being one group with a positive outlook of helping each other and looking out for one another, be it like modern day Musketeers soon turns into the disgusting blind belief and violence of the Brownshirts which sparks some concern from the tutor, the students and this insane and dangerous adventure all become something very different as disbandment is attempted..
Without becoming a victim of the age there’s not an overbearing amount of popular music that you’d expect from a film about teens. It’s shakey can over the shoulder look at their world is drama enough to really hit hard and adds to the realistic edge to what is a film based on a real events. But what Gansel really emphasises from real life is how the scenes of the radicalised students begin to mimic the shots of Hitler rallies. He uses similar camera techniques used in propaganda footage, to film the tutor as a modern day hitler, from behind preaching to his followers, as the camera pans across the numerous faces, how much larger than the original class as they have begun to recruit, they all move in unison as they throw their crazy salute as one monotonous legion.
There’s not so much emphasis on how the students were so bored of hearing about the third reich and believed they knew it all but yet were so easily led into becoming part of a very similar regime and this undeniable connection with how the rise of the far right is creeping up all over the world.
In reflection the terrible taste that the film leaves you with doubly bad, with having to witness just how easy it is for a group of young and seemingly strong minds to fall into this need to belong and evolve into a pretty nasty group, but there’s also this bold admission that it doesn’t take a monster to start the movement, but just one individual with some drive and an idea, it’s not an excuse for any dictator but it places a human face on such a person.. *shudder*
R – We Are The Night (2010), Before the Fall (2004), Dead Poets Society (1989), Swing Kids (1993), Auschwitz (2011), Das Experiment (2001)
L -A-Z German Cinema, Social Experiments in Cinema, Top Teachers, 20 Films from 2008 Still Worth Talking About.
Spotlight : Jürgen Vogel