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Movie Critic ِArticle: The Wave (Die Welle) 2008

The Wave (Die Welle) 2008

Article by: Muhsin Elfaki

For the very simple reason that I suffer the spread of the 'Culture of the Herd', that which is there in spite of the tech revolution and the rise of informatics, I hereby suggest that you watch this movie.
Yes it is me! The same person who wrote somewhere in 2009 that "although the world from the historical point of view is known as a vast network of human communication and civil (?) transactions, humanity with all its advances in the various fields of science and technology has not been able to make networks stronger, more cohesive, or richer and more versatile. Ours is the age of communication without reach; of information without knowledge.
The model of the era of globalization sacrifices all other models and weakens the global fabric of civilization into a flimsy network that entangles people into inability to contribute to its tissue and composition.
Here is how I see it!
What means Culture of the Herd?
Let's begin with the Hadith (discourse) weakly predicated to prophet Muhammad: "Be not a follower who says if people do me good then same shall I do and if they do me bad, then bad shall I return. Resign yourself to goodness. If people do you good, do them just the same. If they do you bad then good it is to abstain."
The 'Culture of the Herd', simply put is social compliance or conformity. It is adherence to standards prevailing in the community or society because of penalties or sanctions, which may result from the breach of such rules.
Set in Germany of today, the movie is based on more than one TRUE STORY!
"During a project week, high school teacher Rainer Wenger (Jürgen Vogel) comes up with an experiment in order to explain to his students how totalitarian governments work. A role-playing game with tragic results begins. Within a few days, what began with harmless notions like discipline and community builds into a real movement: THE WAVE. By the third day, the students start ostracizing and threatening others. When the conflict finally erupts into violence at an intramural water polo game, the teacher decides to break off the experiment. But it’s too late. THE WAVE is out of control…" The Source
As such, the movie recalls theater, personal history, the Nazi and, possibly, socialist history of Germany.

Unenvied for steering in these dire straits, German director Dennis Gansel (born Oct. 4, 1973) vowed not to touch again on the political issues treated by his film.

Dennis Gansel (born 1973) studied cinema in Munich.
The Wave 2008 is the fourth in a series he started by a short movie in 2004. Some of his movies have won several awards, especially in his native home Germany. This movie in particular won five awards out of seven nominations.
As a young moviemaker (b. 1973) Gansel is still (!), on a romantic relationship with one of the heroines of his movie, a Jennifer Ulrich (born 1984). See clip below!

I do not know if it was just a coincidence that the protagonist, the killer according to the final scene, bore the same name Dennis as the filmmaker (left photo).  Then, was this movie a kind of biography? Or maybe, a projection of self-experience following suit after great filmmakers like Japan's Akira Kurosawa or Italy's Fellini, Egypt's Chahine or even Spielberg in his latest film War Horse.
Gansel's movie has credits on both ends in a stenciled manner and plenty of songs. All this gives the viewer extra stimulation to possess his attention and ensure close following.
But We Have to Look For A Woman!
The school principal encourages the teacher Rainer Wenger to proceed with his experiment and lies about the effects of "occupational jealousy". Seems like she gave him all the cover he needed for abuses that occurred during the experiment, not only within the school, but also when these issues were addressed by the press and the public opinion in the city which lead to the chasing by the police of students who 'littered' the city with their stickers and stenciled Wave logos.
The strife of the teacher with his lover, who is also his colleague in the same school, contributes to the revealing of negative repercussions of the Wave experiment on the students, especially what she saw as abandoning her, including his intense concern with his class!
These repercussions lead to the unexpected events that occupy the rest of the movie.


  • The graphic scenes of the water polo and diving, are more than wonderful to see. They were done with extra precision by Torsten Breuer.
  • America is so present in the minds of the German people. Invocations against George Bush ( the film was produced before the coming of Obama ) are present in the general adages and remarks uttered in German but according to EST (Eastern Standard Time)
  • In an interesting scene two teenage students were talking: Alex- We've got everything we need to have fun, so what can we do to revolt all this!? Dieter- Come on man! You know what the largest search on Google was for? Alex- what? Dieter- How to sleep with ....(a famous American actress)
  • I also noticed that Rainer Wenger (the teacher) rides a seventies Peugeot. A French car. While his student rides a modern American SUV!
  • Some of the reference the teacher was reading had these German names: Disziplin dar Schule, Uniformen Sitzplan, Jugendpsychology. They are books that address such topics as discipline and uniforms and what not about organizing schools and also about adolescent psychology!

The influences behind this movie are beyond this recommendational article. They are so varied and controversial. They range from Durenmatt's famous opera Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit of the Old Lady) which touches on how the individual can become just one of the many and become lost in the herd to the more modern (or post-modern) effect of professor Ron Jones and his experiments in California about the origins of Nazism and the evolution of the Wave movies. But there are also influences from the filmmaker's personal life!
So, it is big! But it IS a must-see!

Film Facts for The Wave (Die Welle):

(Other works by Gansel: "Before The Fall" and "We Are The Night"

The Wave (Die Welle), 2008. Germany. 107 min. Color.
Date Released in USA: May 2011.
Genre: Drama/Thriller.
Director: Dennis Gansel
Cinematographer: Torsten Breuer
Cast: Jurgen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Jennifer Ulrich, Max Reimelt.
Film writers: Quite a number but preceded by a short story writer Ron Jones!


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