The Wave (15)

Mar 02, 2011
Cranbrook Film Society

It is nearly the end of term in a contemporary school in Germany and the pupils are bored. For Project Week, a popular teacher, Rainer Wegner (Jürgen Vogel) is asked to teach ‘dictatorship’ to a class. He is less than enthusiastic as he would have much preferred to teach ‘socialism’ and the pupils are fed up with the Nazis – how could it possibly ever happen again? What begins as an experiment to make the lesson more appealing, turns more serious and ends in tragedy as, too late, Wegner realizes what a monster has been created.

Dennis Gansel took the story of the film from a novel written about a real event that happened in a school in Palo Alto, California, in 1967. A teacher called Ron Jones decided to make his social studies lessons more interesting for his fifteen year-old students and ‘The Third Wave’ was born. At a time of student radicalism and opposition to involvement in Vietnam, it quickly escalated. One of Jones’s pupils later said, “We basically had a mini police state going. You couldn’t trust your best friend. You were scared to death because if you did something, you’d get caught, and if you got caught, you got a bad grade. You were ruled by fear.”

This is a subject to which Dennis Gansel has returned following his critically acclaimed Before the Fall about the Nazification of German youth. He said, “I have a grandfather who was really supportive of Hitler, who told me, ‘When I was your age, I was leading a division in Russia.’ And I have very leftwing parents. So, as part of the third generation after the Second World War, it is something I really want to explore.” He has also said of this film, “It isn’t about politics at all. It’s more about group dynamics and psychology.”

Cast: Jürgen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt, Jennifer Ulrich, Christiane Paul, Jacob Matschenz, Cristina do Rego, Elyas M’Barek, Maximilian Vollmar

Dennis Gansel | Germany | 2008 | 107 minutes | 15


            Weighted vote 89%