Can Autocracy rear its ugly head and Fascism rule the land? We will say No because we can never fall prey to it and we can never stand up for it! We can say with conviction that we will not be pulled into it and the world will never succumb to it ever again. The horrors that took place is Germany so many years back is a lesson to us all and it will never occur, in our world as we know it, ever again.
Today’s movie is based on the true incident of a psychological experiment that went horribly wrong in a Californian High School in 1967. The German movie The Wave is based on this experiment. It is a seductively cautionary tale about the roots of fascism and it warns us about the dangers of a volatile political scenario of today’s world.
Dennis Gansel, captures the intoxicating power of conformity and crowd mentality in this powerful psychological drama “The Wave” or Die Welle with Jurgen Vogel as the charismatic teacher Rainer Wenger.
The middle aged, unconventional social sciences teacher Rainer Wenger is disappointed that he does not get to teach the class about anarchy but he is given the topic autocracy for the project week. Disgruntled he dives into preparing for his class on the subject but he find out without much ado that his is an indifferent and passionless class and as one student puts it aptly “What is there left to be against? All we want is to have fun.” Wegner tries to approach the subject with a textbook study of fascism and asks the class if dictatorship like Hitler’s would be possible in Germany today. The utterly disinterested students either say no or they don’t care. Hitting a wall with them Wegner tries to make the lesson more interesting.
Therefore he elects himself as the leader and demands that the students address him as Herr Wenger, obey all his orders and salute him. We see that the class jumps in with enthusiasm at the idea. They soon have their own dress code of white shirt and jeans, develop their own salutation, and create a logo and a motto that says “Unity through Discipline”. They call themselves “The Wave”
Unfortunately things escalate within a week and much to the surprise of Wenger himself that HE indeed likes this adulation and total power over his students. The movement takes on a cult status and soon students from other discipline join in to the Wave bandwagon. The movement gives the students something to believe in, an idea that they can bring in change, usher in social equality, until it all goes awry. As tensions increase, “Wave” graffiti appears all over the town including the Town Hall. The highly charged atmosphere in the school culminates in a fight at an inter school water polo match.
Much like the rise of Nazis it is the disenfranchised that latch on to feel powerful for the first time and those that seem the most damaged become the lieutenants. As the self – propelled program evolves; one of the troubled students translates his newfound feeling of pride into a dangerous obsession, which makes the Wave twisted and almost evil. The brilliance of the film lies in the climatic scene when the agreeable Rainer’s countenance hardens and contorts into a scowl as he realizes that he has become the dictator he detests so much.
The Wave shows us the Confront of a movement not necessarily fascism but about any movement that creates a community, that gives people a pride to belong in it. The concept is appealing because we can find our calling in this idea that lifts us and makes us believe that we can make a difference, only that some movements just get out of hand.
What makes this movie even more chilling is the not the fact that it’s been played out in Germany but that it makes abundantly clear that the roots of fascism can grow anywhere.
Here is the trailer of The Wave