Jan 27, 2017

Die Welle – 2008 – Can history repeat itself?

I was trying to do a video review of this for my youtube channel but soon realized that I couldn’t. I couldn’t get my thoughts about it into words that wat without stuttering way too much. I’m that excited to express my opinions about this flick.

First of all I must say that it’s brave for a German movie to take on such subjects that the film revolves around. I’m not sure that Nazism or Hitler is actually mentioned but there are obvious parallels to such a fascist society. The question about if we are so enlightened today with knowledge of the past that we couldn’t fall in that trap again is the most central one. That is even spoken out in plain text in the movie.

But let’s start from the beginning. Rainer Wegner is a popular teacher in school. By the students that is. He’s quite unorthodox and that makes his colleagues suspicions about his methods. But he’s popular by the students and that is a quality more teachers should have in my opinion. Theme week is coming up and Reiner plans of taking on the subject anarchy. He’s really excited about it and equally disappointed when he realizes that this subject has already been taken by another teacher. Unwillingly he is forced to choose autocracy instead. At first he isn’t very interested but once the question about whether this kind of society could emerge again he takes a different approach.

From this point on he conducts an experiment. What would happen if he could fulfill all re requirements for it to work? He needs to prove to his students as to himself that people need to think about their actions and choices in life. Is it possible to manipulate the students into autocracy?

Together with his students he starts to map out what key elements that needs to be fulfilled in such a society. Among other things a strong leader is needed. Also some kind of unifying for the “people”; discontent is agreed on. And that is a strong base to build a group willing to do most anything for a change. To argue that the end justifies the means to such a group will not be hard. They also conclude that they need a common dress code, some kind of uniform. That this doesn’t have to be a military uniform is quickly debated and each and every one gets out getting a white shirt. This and a few other fundamental characteristics is enough for things to start escalating. When a salute and a name for the group – The Wave – is created we take another step further.

In my mind there is also another thing that needs to be fulfilled. That is weak individuals that in being part of a great whole in order to feel strong and even invincible; weak individuals that can blame the entire group for each and every decision that might be too close to home; each and every decision that might be too hard to make on their own. They find the strength in numbers.

The transgression of the experiment goes fast. Mind you, there’s only one theme week and by the end of this week a really strong willed organization has been created. Few of the initial students realize the potential danger of the situation but there are individuals that are very uncomfortable with the concept to say the least. They protest by not participating in the uniform dress code and starts to develop their own counter movement with flyers to inform the masses of the dangerous situation.

Even the conductor of the experiment gets drawn into it and starts to change his personality. Maybe not to the extent of his students but he is changing. No doubt about that. He is also approached by the opposition that things are about to go out of proportion and that he’s losing control of the situation. He needs to fix what has gone wrong.

In my opinion this is a pretty frightening movie. It is very realistic and there’s no doubt in my mind that such a society could be created if a strong leader was manipulative enough. In fact, I think it’s about to happen in several parts of the world already. We may not see Nazism as we once did, the swastika may not be present but if we start to lose our grip it doesn’t matter what symbol that is used. Totalitarian leaders seem to be found in the west and east alike. When people start to oppress other people we have failed.

I found this flick to be very watchable. It made me feel real fear which is an uncommon feeling coming from a movie these days. I think it’s nicely played and wonderfully written. I wish more movies would explore these themes of the darkest parts of human history.


This just in: I just realized that this is in fact a remake of an earlier short movie. Now I need to get my hands on that as well…

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