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The Wave (Die Welle)
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2009
Format: DVD
Germany, The Present: Rainer Wenger (Jorgen Vogel) is a middle-aged high school teacher who has been reluctantly tasked with teaching an optional class on the notion of "autocracy" during project week. A former anarchist himself, Wenger initially encounters gentle resistance from his teenage wards - who are predominately the indulged, privileged children of successful middle class intellectuals who have been so inculcated with the historical significance and conduct of the Nazis that they have come to believe that it would be impossible for a dictatorship such as the National Socialist Worker's Party to rise to dominance again. With this in mind, Wenger initiates a week-long practical experiment in the class in order to examine whether just such an event is truly possible. But as the class begin to coalesce around the authoritarian youth movement, which they name "The Wave",events begin to run out of control...

Like its recent German contemporary, The Experiment, "The Wave" is a fictionalized account of events which actually occurred in the US: "Das Experiment" was a reimagining of Philip Zimbardo's notorious "Stanford Prison" experiments (chronicled in his book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil) and "The Wave" is based on an actual class experiment which allegedly ran out of control in Pao Alto, California in the late sixties (and which was fictionalized by Morton Rhue/Todd Strasser in his book, The Wave (New Windmills)).

Dennis Gansel's film is a thought-provoking examination of the nature of unity, peer pressure and social affiliation in contemporary society which eschews easy conclusions about just who is susceptible to the corrupting nature power. In less talented hands it could have been an utterly pedestrian exercise, but Gansel explicitly (but subtly) demonstrates how the initially attractive notions of strength through social unity and cohesion can be perverted. Alarmingly, like the school principle who is initially won over by the way in which Wenger's Wave experiment appears to motivate his students, the audience finds itself seduced by the way in which the initially disparate and feckless students begin to work together as a unit in order to win at Water Polo and produce the school play, but to Gansel's credit when events inevitably take a turn for the sinister, he refuses to indulge in soap opera; his teenage subjects do not degenerate into faceless automatons but rather retain their very realistic personalities within the framework of their movement. One witnesses the march of the innocently unaware into the jaws of totalitarianism: when, for instance, they adopt a salute, they relate to the concept of it as "mellow, chilled-out" sign of social greeting rather than to the overtly sinister vaguely connotation that it has for outsiders (something which, one must inevitably conclude, also played out in the streets of nineteen thirties Germany amongst members of the Hitler youth).

Gansel also subtly examines the way in which the concept of tribal affiliation extends far beyond "The Wave". When his white-shirted protagonists face off against a group of anarchist punks, one is struck by the uniformity of the so-called rabidly individual anarchists. Similarly, when "the wave" turn out in droves to support the school water polo team, one is prompted to ponder the inherent uniformity that exists amongst "normal" sports fans who turn out in their colours to support their teams in everday life.

A brilliant depiction of the unwitting seduction of the gullible, "The Wave" is one of the most thought-provoking treatise on the corruption of social affiliation that you'll see in mainstream cinema.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Dennis Gansel's "The Wave" is one of those hot button cautionary tales that, when handled incorrectly, can be painfully over-the-top. This German film, however, takes a controversial and provocative subject and keeps a remarkably level head. And I'll tell you what--this movie blew me away! Taking its inspiration from a real life incident, "The Wave" posits how fascism might easily reposition itself in a contemporary setting. This political allegory is all the more unsettling in that it is actually developed in a believable way. With the powerful "Before The Fall" and the stylish "We Are The Night," Gansel is fast becoming one of my favorite screenwriters and directors. He can and does make visually arresting films, but actually has something of import to say as well. If you have not seen "Before The Fall," I strongly recommend that one as well for a more historical look at youths and fascism.

"The Wave" is set in modern day Germany. A high school curriculum has students enrolling in special projects based on different forms of government. A popular teacher (a great Jurgen Vogel) tries to invigorate his seminar on autocracy by stimulating discussion in unorthodox ways. He leads the class in exercises in discipline, uniformity, and communal ideals. The students are so taken, they start really coming together. It's as if by providing order and structure, the kids are getting something they didn't know they were missing. But this new group spirit also brings about a certain elitism and brashness. Some are taking the experiment a bit far, and those that oppose them must face the repercussions. As the days progress, the situation becomes increasingly tense.

What might have been a heavy-handed diatribe is, in Gansel's astute screenplay, a story of disaffected youths realizing their potential as well as their mistakes. While it appears things are getting too serious, the end act strikes just the right balance. The cast is uniformly excellent with the diverse group of kids getting ample character development which makes the film even more disturbing. This is certainly a film that can be analyzed and discussed, but this is not really the forum for that. If you enjoy challenging, serious-minded filmmaking--treat yourself to "The Wave." It will make you think, but have no fear, it is also thoroughly entertaining as well. I loved it! KGHarris, 11/11.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Amazon Instant Video
Dennis Gansel's "The Wave" is one of those hot button cautionary tales that, when handled incorrectly, can be painfully over-the-top. This German film, however, takes a controversial and provocative subject and keeps a remarkably level head. And I'll tell you what--this movie blew me away! Taking its inspiration from a real life incident, "The Wave" posits how fascism might easily reposition itself in a contemporary setting. This political allegory is all the more unsettling in that it is actually developed in a believable way. With the powerful "Before The Fall" and the stylish "We Are The Night," Gansel is fast becoming one of my favorite screenwriters and directors. He can and does make visually arresting films, but actually has something of import to say as well. If you have not seen "Before The Fall," I strongly recommend that one as well for a more historical look at youths and fascism.

"The Wave" is set in modern day Germany. A high school curriculum has students enrolling in special projects based on different forms of government. A popular teacher (a great Jurgen Vogel) tries to invigorate his seminar on autocracy by stimulating discussion in unorthodox ways. He leads the class in exercises in discipline, uniformity, and communal ideals. The students are so taken, they start really coming together. It's as if by providing order and structure, the kids are getting something they didn't know they were missing. But this new group spirit also brings about a certain elitism and brashness. Some are taking the experiment a bit far, and those that oppose them must face the repercussions. As the days progress, the situation becomes increasingly tense.

What might have been a heavy-handed diatribe is, in Gansel's astute screenplay, a story of disaffected youths realizing their potential as well as their mistakes. While it appears things are getting too serious, the end act strikes just the right balance. The cast is uniformly excellent with the diverse group of kids getting ample character development which makes the film even more disturbing. This is certainly a film that can be analyzed and discussed, but this is not really the forum for that. If you enjoy challenging, serious-minded filmmaking--treat yourself to "The Wave." It will make you think, but have no fear, it is also thoroughly entertaining as well. I loved it! KGHarris, 11/11.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
The Wave is one of the most provocative films I've seen in ages. It's about a high school teacher in Germany who conducts a social experiment with his students to demonstrate how easily dictatorships can grow, and fascism can flourish.

Truly a wonderful movie.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
How do you relate to an unthinkable heritage? It is easy enough to embrace and celebrate the heroic struggles that define one's cultural or national identity, but is it enough to label the evils as such in order to safely relegate them to the past?

In Dennis Gansel's film The Wave (Die Welle) a likeable but unorthodox German high school teacher sets out to demonstrate to his students that fascism is still possible, and finds his experiment to be more successful than even he had predicted. Rainer, who had been planning to teach a course on anarchism and punk rock, is assigned to teach a special module on fascism and autocracy. Confronted with the apathy of students who find the topic both irrelevant and done to death, he decides to try another approach: he shows them firsthand just how appealing a regime based on order, unity and discipline can be.

As the students' fascination with dictatorial techniques of social control leads to their enthusiastic participation, the newly established community takes on a life of its own that grows dangerously out of control. The film is based on a true story of a teacher in California who, at the peak of the social upheaval in the 70's, wanted to show his students how Nazi Germany and the horrors of Auschwitz could come to be. The genius of the film - which manages to be thoroughly engaging and fun to watch at the same time as it raises important questions - is in its seamless adaptation of this story to a very different time and place, showing how easily the universal need for acceptance and desire to belong to something important can be perverted into a system that promotes hatred of the nonconformist and of the outsider.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Dennis Gansel's "The Wave" is one of those hot button cautionary tales that, when handled incorrectly, can be painfully over-the-top. This German film, however, takes a controversial and provocative subject and keeps a remarkably level head. And I'll tell you what--this movie blew me away! Taking its inspiration from a real life incident, "The Wave" posits how fascism might easily reposition itself in a contemporary setting. This political allegory is all the more unsettling in that it is actually developed in a believable way. With the powerful "Before The Fall" and the stylish "We Are The Night," Gansel is fast becoming one of my favorite screenwriters and directors. He can and does make visually arresting films, but actually has something of import to say as well. If you have not seen "Before The Fall," I strongly recommend that one as well for a more historical look at youths and fascism.

"The Wave" is set in modern day Germany. A high school curriculum has students enrolling in special projects based on different forms of government. A popular teacher (a great Jurgen Vogel) tries to invigorate his seminar on autocracy by stimulating discussion in unorthodox ways. He leads the class in exercises in discipline, uniformity, and communal ideals. The students are so taken, they start really coming together. It's as if by providing order and structure, the kids are getting something they didn't know they were missing. But this new group spirit also brings about a certain elitism and brashness. Some are taking the experiment a bit far, and those that oppose them must face the repercussions. As the days progress, the situation becomes increasingly tense.

What might have been a heavy-handed diatribe is, in Gansel's astute screenplay, a story of disaffected youths realizing their potential as well as their mistakes. While it appears things are getting too serious, the end act strikes just the right balance. The cast is uniformly excellent with the diverse group of kids getting ample character development which makes the film even more disturbing. This is certainly a film that can be analyzed and discussed, but this is not really the forum for that. If you enjoy challenging, serious-minded filmmaking--treat yourself to "The Wave." It will make you think, but have no fear, it is also thoroughly entertaining as well. I loved it! KGHarris, 11/11.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2009
Format: DVD
"The Wave" is a German film directed by Dennis Gansel. The film is based on a true story of an experiment by a high school teacher, Ron Jones, who taught a class in autocracy, and demonstrated how easily the masses could be manipulated. The experiment was called The Third Wave, and it took place at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California during the first week of April, 1967. This film is a warning to all about how fragile democracy is as within a week a class of students were manipulated to accept a fascist point of view. The movie convincingly conveys the transistion, and how it affected a community.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2014
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
OMG! This was suggested by a TEACHER to show to my class after reading The Wave. I'm hoping I bought the wrong one because this is not appropriate for the classroom- not even high school! It has majorly suggestive sexual acts and even shows a less than tame pornography site during one scene & this is all within the first 15 minutes or less. Not to mention the cursing. Not appropriate!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
I have read Lifton, Singer, and many other experts on cults. This movie displays the step-by-step indoctrination into a facist political structure and told in a very well done manner. For those in the know of how subtle indoctrination can occur, they scream out from the movie to you; to those being indoctrinated, the steps seem quite benign.

This movie is not about a cult, by the way, but rather the political system that cults use: the group becomes more important than the individual, anecdotal evidence just good enough to gain compliance, us-vs-them, and information control. A cult would add to these by instilling fears and phobias into the group, as well as an overemphasis on partnering (which is surveillance) and conditioning to submit to leaders; these are not addressed in the movie because, again, this movie is about an experiment in real life that resulted with too many associations with facism.

This is a good educational piece that should be shown in every HS graduation curriculum as well as mandatory introduction for incoming college freshmen.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
I was browsing the foreign film section of my local library the other day and fell upon this. Not knowing much about it, other than what I read on the movie jacket, I was intruiged and picked it up. Am I glad I did!

"The Wave" (2008 release from Germany; 107 min.) captures a (fictitious) social experiment during "Project Week", in which a teacher transforms an underachieving and aimless group of kids into a unit eventually called The Wave, where individuality gives way to the betterment of the group. Mind you, the class is called "autocracy" and examines the roots of autocracy, and then the class, at the urge of the teacher, acts out on it. Inevitably, things go very wrong. I found this a fascinating movie, in particular since the setting is in Germany, with its long history of failed/doomed autocracy, peaking of course with the Nazi regime. The movie felt very real throughout, all the way through its tragic ending. The acting is superb, as is the script and the direction.

There are a couple of nice, albeit short, DVD bonuses, including an interview with the director as well as with Ron Jones, the US teacher who 'invented' the original "wave" experiment in California in the late 60s. In all, this is a terrific movie, with a lot of lessons worth noting. Highly recommended!
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