The Wave (Die Welle)


It must be difficult being German sometimes; moving on from the atrocities that dominated much of your country’s history in the last century whilst being respectful enough never to forget the lessons that were learnt. How many generations must offer remuneration before it feels like an inherited debt? How many populations must profess guilt before resenting the act? How many children must apologise for the sins of the fatherland before living memory passes on?

It’s an interesting subject, and one that cinematically Germany has only recently begun to address. The Edukators, Goodbye Lenin, The Lives of Others and Downfall are just four of the films that look at the behaviour and fallout of Germany’s turbulent political actions in the 20th Century, told from the perspective of a nation coming to terms with its fascistic heritage.

The Wave is another of those films and looks at how, only three generations later, the nations youth are already desensitised to the atrocities of the second world war and the political misdirections of the post war years. ‘The Nazis sucked’ states one bling-clad student before he is swiftly indoctrinated by a class autocracy project gone wrong – ‘we get it’.

The Teacher is one of those hip teachers that only exist in movies; a Ramones loving punk, a leather-sporting smoker whose anarchic spirit never left him – despite a career of enthusing bored teenagers with politics. Teaching an autocracy project and shocked at the disinterest of the students, he creates a class gang called ‘The Wave’ and begins to demonstrate how easily tribal allegiances can be formed and how quickly fascistic characteristics can form.

He’s a fantastic teacher, because within two days he already has his autonomous gang of Droogs wearing identical uniforms, making MySpace pages with gang logos and terrorizing the town with a campaign of graffiti and aggressive hood wearing. Despite several prior scenes where the students quite aptly discussed the societal requirements of a rise to the right – financial upheaval, low unemployment, influx of immigrants etc – they abandon all intellectual interpretation of what is happening and instead embrace their new found mass because, like, it means they don’t get picked on at school, n’stuff

Before you can say “Disturbing Behaviour was just a rip off of The Stepford Wives” the Wave starts swelling in ranks, starts buying guns off the internet, starts picking fights with hilariously-dressed anarchists and starts organising support for the water polo team. By the third day the whole Breakfast Club has been swallowed – the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal – all revelling in the positive effects of mass uniformity.

Had the film tried to be more of a parable, staying within the confines of the school, it could have been much more interesting. Had it used the natural hierarchy of high school as a metaphor for society, or been more of a satire, it could have worked better.

As it stands it plays more like a horror film, where fascism lurks in the shadows, ready to pounce on any slightly disenfranchised teenager who feels the warmth of acceptance. It feels like the inverse of Red Dawn, where uniformity parachutes into the classrooms of a resting nation.

At the end, the teacher reveals that it was just a lesson, an example of how easily people can be lead towards fascism. Of course by now it’s now too late, the Wave are an autonomous mass of upheaval, calling for a conquering Germany and stringing up those who oppose them. A class project lasting six days has united a school and turned mallrats into an army… the audience gasp… the lesson has backfired… fascism has occurred again… the horror… the horror…

It’s a profoundly silly film – well-meaning and with some good ideas but ruined by a ridiculous timeframe and an over-simplified idea. What was initially an interesting debate soon turned into a version of the Blob, where the children fight a quite literal political enemy and not just a metaphoric political enemy that looks like a giant blob from outer space.

There’s still room out there for a really good movie about how the new generation of German youth view their country’s history, but this isn’t it. This is a quite entertaining, but accidentally funny horror film with good intentions, but very little self-awareness.

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45 Responses to “The Wave (Die Welle)”

  1. daveselectricblanket Says:

    I live with two hot German girls, and hang around with another German girl seperately who is hot – – and they’ve brought this topic up themselves more than once.

    They don’t feel guilt at all. They seperate themselves from it, from what I’ve heard. Although they do hate the Austrians on account of Hitler. That’s true.

  2. Swineshead Says:

    The fact that they’re hot has nothing to do with anything, you sexist bastard.

  3. ugeine Says:

    Let’s be honest, it’s no different from Britain and slavery. Or Britain and imperialism. Or Britain and Oasis.

  4. Dave Says:

    Oh, and I made the mistake of lending one of them Dr. Strangelove and Lolita. Both films have Sellers doing an offensive German impression. That’s not going to help me in my conquests…I wanted to come across as all into film, but now she’ll see me as a xenophobic bastard.

  5. Swineshead Says:

    Oh Christ, Ugeine – you wait till NC gets hold of that…

    Dave – you are not responsible for Peter Sellers’ amusing stereotypes. You are responsible for your xenophobia.

  6. ugeine Says:

    SH: Two ways I can interpret this:

    1) My garbled gibberish made some kind of comparison between imperialism / slavery and Nazisim. What I meant in that comment was the attitudes of the German girls Dave described (they see themselves as separate from Nazi Germany) is how us Brits see us from our slave owning / Imperialist ancestors. I don’t know enough about slavery, imperialism or Nazism to compare the three.

    2) My garbled gibberish indicated my loathing for Oasis, which would offend Napoleon. If he wants to stick up for Oasis, be my guest…

  7. ugeine Says:

    Aw shit, his full name isn’t Napoleon Gallagher is it?

  8. badgermadge Says:

    Interesting post, loving your work etc.

    Here’s my take on the latest Bond film…

  9. Dave Says:

    Then see how writing about James Bond should be done at my superior (far inferior) blog to Badger Madge’s effort!


  10. badgermadge Says:

    Dave, show them Fawlty Towers. They’re sure to love you for it. x

  11. Dave Says:

    Allo Allo and Dads Army need to be returned first. They can keep Goodnight Sweetheart.

  12. badgermadge Says:

    DAve’s would be superior to mine. If he’d actually written about the film and not to boobs. But yes, better written. Mine was in haste as I’m at work, fuckers!

  13. badgermadge Says:

    the boobs… gah!

  14. Dave Says:

    I’m not some crazy journo kid like you, BM. It took me four months to complete a sentence correctly.

    And, besides, I’ve seen the boobs but the film isn’t out until the 31st for us mortals.

  15. Swineshead Says:

    I want to see this film. My desire is hampered by the fact I can only find it with Swedish subtitles (in the cinema at home). That was a code.

    Anyone sourced an Eng subs version?

  16. Napoleon Says:

    Ugeine, you’re an arse! How dare you compare the atrocities of that nest of jackbooted vipers with our glorious empire. By God! I had no idea this site was infested with traitors. BASTARD!

    And this film sounds SHIT.

  17. badgermadge Says:

    Don’t bother SH. Seriously. Just rent one of the Bourne films then stare at a copy of Nuts with Gemma Anderton (or whatever) in it. Then paint her black and have her lie on a bed dead…


  18. ugeine Says:

    *pisses on Union Jack*

    *swears on live TV*


    *advertises butter*

    I’m a real anarchist, me.

  19. badgermadge Says:

    Oh, you meant the wave. yes, i want to see it too.

  20. Napoleon Says:

    Balls! This film’s far too arty-farty – ALL foreign films are, and that’s a FACT. No, these are the five best films ever made, and if you don’t agree with me I hope your innards fall out your arse:

    1. Red Heat
    2. Under Seige
    3. Big Trouble in Little China
    4. Smokey & The Bandit II
    5. Commando

  21. Napoleon Says:

    Next one down the list is, of course, Over The Top – the Stallone fucking arm-wrestling movie.

  22. ugeine Says:

    I’ve seriously only heard of one of those films before (Big trouble in little china).

  23. Swineshead Says:

    Ugeine – I seriously don’t believe you.

    Red Heat – Arnie and the untalented Belushi brother.
    Commando – Arnie
    Smokey & The Bandit – Reynolds
    Under Siege – Seagal – Erika Eleniak (sp) gets her norks out.

    They’re not the best films ever made. And my innards haven’t fallen out of my arse.

    I bet NC’s watched plenty of foreign adult films. And Betty Blue n’all.

  24. Napoleon Says:

    You’re fucking kidding me? You’ve NEVER heard of Smokey & The Bandit? How the fuck’s that even possible?

    Right, for your benefit, Ugeine, here’s a quick summary of the above films:

    1. Red Heat – Arnie plays a Russian cop with an Austrian accent who comes to New York to catch a dangerous Moscow gangster. All hell breaks loose.

    2. Under Seige – Segal plays a cook who’s also a secret services super soldier. Hijackers (led by Tommy Lee Jones) take over the aircraft carrier he’s working on, and he has to start snapping necks.

    3. You know that one.

    4. Smokey & The Bandit II – Burt Reynolds and his best mate The Snowman (and The Snowman’s dog Fred) transport an elephant and a fat, piss-artist doctor across the USA for a bet. Much mayhem ensues.

    5. Commando – Arnie’s wife throws a cake at him that has the words ‘EAT SHIT’ written on it. For that alone, it’s worth watching. It also has a villain who wears a string vest, and shit-loads of killings.


  25. Napoleon Says:

    Swineshead – What do you know, you foreign film-watching boob? I hope your innards fall out your arse.

    With your beak nose.

  26. Napoleon Says:

    Swineshead – What do you know, you foreign film-watching boob? I hope your innards fall out your arse.

    With your beak nose.

  27. Napoleon Says:

    Why’s that come up twice? I pressed the button once, and yet there it is – twice. Bastards.

    And I haven’t seen Betty Blue, as it ‘appens. I remember every wally and his dog had the poster of it up on their walls. I didn’t – I had that woman scratching her arse, a Stallone Cobra poster, and a picture of a monkey dressed as a bear that bore the legend ‘Where’s the Beef?!!’


  28. Swineshead Says:

    You missed out on seeing Beatrice Dahllllle’s bobs.

    You golf-ball nosed turd.

    *runs off*

  29. Napoleon Says:

    I don’t need to look at substandard French knockers, thank you very much.

    Anyway, YOUR nose makes you look like you belong on a perch, you bird-beaked, big-nosed bum-bandit.

  30. goerge Says:

    Looks like I’ve been missing out on a lot of ass kicking.

    SH: I’ve only seen the one Segal flick (double team) and I had to be convinced it wasn’t a comedy. That didn’t really make me itch for his back catalogue. As for Arnie, I can’t look at him without weeping crestfallenly.

  31. Napoleon Says:

    George – I hope y’damned innards fall out your arse.

  32. John Q Wagonwheel Says:

    Meanwhile, I’ve been studying a load of silent, foreign art films for 4 weeks. Hello.

  33. Swineshead Says:

    Hello JQW. Are you back for good, like Take That?

  34. Toothed Varmint Says:

    I’ve seen all the films. All of them.
    Well, most of them. The ones that count, anyway. I’ve seen those.
    OK, I’ve seen some films.
    I’ve definitely seen Betty Bloo and The Bandit. I think. Was it about this French bird in a cowboy hat? And with a moustache?
    As for the subject – thanks for the review, it helps. I won’t watch The Wave.
    I loved Run Lola Run, liked Das Experiment, watched Downfall with interest and thought that The Lives of Others was utter wank, although with some good moments. Goodbye Lenin I switched off after 15 minutes. German cinema used ti be so much better.

  35. indy Says:

    stalingrad and das boot – there´s two good german movies both about the… (following fawlty instructions)

    smokey and the bandit I is very good too, even if it’s not a german movie. the soundtrack is ace (eastbound and down! by jerry “snowman” reed). i remember it as being terribly long though.

  36. Toothed Varmint Says:

    I thought Stalingrad was shite. Oh, look at poor freezing German soldiers getting murdarized by evil Ivans in this winter wasteland of smashed buildings and dirty snow. Look how they suffer! Feel for them! They are good people dying in this barbaric land of semi-feral Slavs!
    Fuckers. No-one asked you to come to this land to start with so stop your whining and die already!

  37. indy Says:

    and by the way: i was forced to see the american version (must have been made in the late eighties/early nineties) in school. it was very frustrating because after having seen it many class mates that i considered being stupid and sheepish started talking about the movie like it had invented the wheel with tits. they were all zombie-ing around going on about how terrible it was that the teacher had made the pupils to become nazis. this chain reaction of stupidity almost forced me to do the cartman-halloween-trick and turn up in school in full ss-uniform just to freak them out. as it turned out 90 % of the class had showed themselves easily manipulated in to a movement by a 90 minute session in front of the box.

  38. Toothed Varmint Says:

    >I’ve only seen the one Segal flick (double team)
    Isn’t Double Team a Van Damme’s flick? I’m sure it is.

  39. Toothed Varmint Says:

    American version of what, Indy? I’m confused.

  40. indy Says:

    there is an american version of the wave as well, that is true to the californian experiment (yes, based on a true story)

  41. Toothed Varmint Says:

    So The Wave is a remake of an earlier American film?

  42. indy Says:

    “The Wave (TV special)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Wave, is a short made-for-TV movie based on Ron Jones’ The Third Wave experiment. Though more prominently featured in the ABC Afterschool Special Series, this show debuted October 4, 1981; almost two years before being featured in the Afterschool Special series.”

    there you are. remake it is.

  43. Toothed Varmint Says:

    I’ve just gained another nugget of knowledge. Thank you, Indy.

  44. Swineshead Says:

    I read the book at school. Even at 14 I found it simplistic. Anyone found a torrent yet?

  45. indy Says:

    anytime, mate. i also recommend the piece they did in the guardian on the teacher and the pupils that took part in the real experiment. guess you’ll find it in their archieve if your interested.

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