The Wave: movie review
A fictional twist on psychological experiments illustrating Germans' compliance during the Nazi regime, 'The Wave' explores one teacher's experience teaching about autocracy in a current-day German high school.
3.5 / 5 starsSkip to next paragraph
Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus' trailer recalls 'Alien'-style sci fi horror (Video)
HBO cancels shows including 'Hung,' 'Bored to Death'
'The Hobbit' trailer provides a glimpse into a new Middle-Earth journey (VIDEO)
'The Dark Knight Rises' trailer draws controversy for villain Bane's portrayal
'The Dark Knight Rises' trailer is here, gritty
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Some of the more controversial experiments in modern psychology have dealt with how far test subjects will go when told to do something. A few years before the infamous 1971 Stanford prison experiment, in which student “officers” abused their peer “prisoners,” an exercise known as “The Third Wave” took place at a California high school. To illustrate the Germans’ complicity during the Nazi regime, a teacher motivated his students into creating a unified, anti-Democracy front that looked frighteningly familiar. Of course, it caught on like wildfire, later inspiring a TV movie, an award-winning novelization, and now filmmaker Dennis Gansel’s fictional take with a twist: The Wave takes place in a current-day high school in Germany, the original scene of the crime, so to speak. It’s an intriguing slant on the story, an occasionally damning portrayal of pointless power.
It’s taken a while for Gansel’s film to gain visibility here in the States; The Wave originally screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, followed by showings in about umpteen countries throughout ’08 and ’09 (It premieres on Sundance Selects video-on-demand June 8). But the delay hasn’t diminished the film as the tantalizing curiosity that it is. The script, by Gansel and Peter Thorwarth (writer-director of 1999′s Bang Boom Bang), hinges on its punk-rock style teacher, Rainer Wenger (skinhead-ish leading man Jurgen Vogel). He wears Ramones t-shirts to school, lets the kids call him by his first name, and is pumped up to teach a one-week track on anarchy. (Hey, he has to wear his Clash t-shirt somewhere, right?)
When a boring old fart colleague snags the anarchy track, the popular Rainer is stuck teaching autocracy. On the first day of introducing the ideology to his class, Rainer finds his class can’t imagine a dictatorship could actually take place again in troubled Germany. So he decides to teach them a lesson: He quickly establishes a minor cult of personality, demands to be called “Herr Wenger” and gives his kids the intoxicating taste of mob power.