A lesser-known movie recommendation for a lazy Sunday afternoon…
This week I want to recommend a film that should appeal to the psychology academics in your life (like my missus) as well as the dystopian thrill-seekers (like me). THE WAVE (DIE WELLE) is a 2008 German production directed by Dennis Gansel and based on a 1981 novel by Todd Strasser. A high school teacher’s unusual experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship spins horribly out of control when he forms a social unit with a life of its own.
Teacher Rainer Wenger (Jürgen Vogel), an anarchist, is forced to teach a class on autocracy. His students refuse to believe that a dictatorship could be established in modern-day Germany, so Wenger establishes an experiment to prove them wrong. He implements a set of strict rules and protocols for the classroom, orders the students to wear a distinctive uniform and greet each other with a specific salute… within a few days, a movement known as the Wave is established, and the same students who doubted Wenger’s original lesson find themselves driven to shocking extremes by their membership of the movement.
THE WAVE is an intriguing movie. Very well made, with a great soundtrack and strong all-round performances, it’s a thought-provoking and disturbing tale given real relevance by its German setting. I’ve long been interested in the question of perspectives in conflict: Why do people act in certain ways? What difference does a uniform make? How can we ever expect to achieve lasting peace when everyone believes what they’re doing is for the right reasons? It’s something I considered at length in the HATER series, and it’s an issue given a far more realistic portrayal here.
This isn’t a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. The conclusion is disappointing (though I can’t decide whether it was overblown or underdone?), but it’s well worth your time. If you’re interested, an earlier made-for-TV version of the story can be found on YouTube:
THE WAVE is available on DVD here, and I recommend you check it out. Thanks to Marc for the tip!