The Wave (2008) | Movie Review

The Wave Die Welle

Release date: March 13, 2008 (Germany) / May 27, 2011 (USA)
Runtime: 1 hr. 47 min.
MPAA Rating: NR (Germany - FSK 12)

Today I have a bit of an unusual review for you: this is not a recent release and it's also a film from Germany called Die Welle (The Wave in English). I discovered it  on Netflix, after a friend brought it up in one of our random-disturbing-topic conversations. If you have any interest in social experiments or human beings in general, I highly recommend this movie - spare a bit under two hours of your time and get ready for some subtitles. It's one of those films you feel weird liking: the subject matter is controversial, to say the least. Nevertheless, it's thought-provoking and very well made.

The film is based on an experiment, that took place at a High School in Palo Alto, California, in 1967. It was called The Third Wave and explored whether fascism was still possible in today's society. The movie is set in present day Germany, where a charismatic teacher Rainer Wenger (Jürgen Vogel) is assigned to teach autocracy during the school's project week. When dictatorship is brought up, the students dismiss the topic deeming it boring and saying the history could not repeat itself. This sparks Rainer's interest and he begins a seemingly harmless experiment.

The film is superb: the acting, the writing, the directing - all excellent. It's also a perfect example of the fact that a movie does not need to be 3 hours long to tell a story. The pace is just right, every scene is there for a reason. Between the structure of the film, the disturbing topic and having to read subtitles, I was completely captivated in horror and awe simultaneously. I know a good film when my mind doesn't wander, I don't feel the urge to tweet my latest thought and I don't wonder how one scene or other was shot. 

The scariest part of the film, by far (other than it being based on true events), is how seemingly innocent the beginning of the experiment is. What's wrong with discipline or respect? How about being stronger as a large group versus small cliques? Then we move on to uniting behind an idea, a goal. How many of us wouldn't want to be a part of a community? How many would say no to being a part of SOMETHING, feeling strong, motivated? But there is a flip side and it's darker than anything good: humans have always been guilty of extremism and the need to convert others to their beliefs, "or else".

Perhaps, the best part of The Wave is that it doesn't hand you all the answers. Yes, it's obvious that the most dangerous assumption is that the history would never repeat itself and that as human beings we have evolved past certain traits. But the rest of the film gives you a lot to think about and that's something I admire above all else.

Long story short, if you're in the mood for a serious film, The Wave  is definitely worth your while. Don't be put off by the subtitles and don't be afraid of the film being too confusing. Personally, I spent half of the movie saying "Oh no! What is happening?!", but not because I was lost - it was because I knew exactly where it was going and it wasn't pretty.

So how about you guys? How often do you give controversial films a chance? What about foreign films? Do you think I should do more of these "discovered on Netflix" reviews?