Die Welle aka The Wave (2008)
Directed by: Dennis Gansel
Cast: Jürgen Vogel and an ensemble cast.
The Venue - A High school in Germany...
The Characters - A teacher and his class
The Occasion - A project week and the topic is "Autocracy"
The class begins with the discussion of "What is Autocracy ?" and progresses along the lines of "Dictatorship and Autocracy". There begins the simulation of an Autocratic society environment inside the classroom. Discussions branch out in directions of "What are the necessary ingredients in an Autocratic environment ?" and the answers being unity, discipline, social factors like political unrest and joblessness and the class simulate these one by one, in the classroom among themselves. The experimental exercise for the project gets really dangerous as the students develop a feel of them as "a mafiotic gang", alienate other students of the school and start developing this as a movement with a name "The Wave" (and hence the title), uniform, salutes (like the famous "Hail Hitler" bow), logos, websites, social parties etc.
The film presents a very lively and healthy classroom atmosphere where the students actually participate in the class, pour in their opinions on what-so-ever thing raised in the class, discuss their thoughts & ideas and debate various aspects. The film starts light and gets very serious as the students develop "that special feeling of unity and power" among themselves. Both the positive and negative aspects of this "unity amongst the class pupils" is depicted in whole of the movie. Though looks simple, the film offers several insights into the history of Germany (without explicit mentions) or the history of any country, for that matter. Every country will have that period of dictatorship, political unrest, social revolution etc in some phase of its' history.
I could feel the following thoughts & insights lingering in me, as I was going through the movie.
What is a teacher capable of ? - They are the sculptors of any society and a teacher own the real potential to influence and manipulate his students.
what is the young generation or the student community capable of ? - The young blood will always be on the look for a common glue to stick them all together. It is characterised by an Infinite amount of energy and spirit looking for a channel to flow across - but it never has an idea of the nature of the channel and the destination. They always need something to stay united ... a common platform, a social setup or a peer network.
what a bad home atmosphere is capable of ? - Spoilt kids - people find no space in their families to share stuff and start feeling "The Wave" as a family.
what is peer pressure capable of ? - We know this and we would have seen this amongst our own friend-circles. Peer pressure will work real wonders ... Though the nature of the cause, good or bad matters ...
what is the impact of a nation's history on a young mind ?
Germany ---> Bismarck, WW1, Hitler, The Third Reich, Berlin Wall crisis, Cold war etc. Through out the last century, Germany's society is always full of Chaos and unrest. There will always be agitated, revolutionary and radical minds in a war strewn country.
India ---> Generally a Peace loving country with utmost importance to the family setup and values. Ofcourse, the people belonging to 60s and 70s would have been student rebels and will have that spark in them - Anti-hindi agitations & the emergency.
We have seen some of these phenomenons explored beautifully in "Hazaaron Khwaishein aisi" -- a very rare movie shot with the period setup of Indian Emergency of 1975. And, Vijayakanth's final speech before the students in the Tamil film "Ramanaa" also offers an insight.
And I couldn't resist my mind travelling across various historical personalities as the movie was depicting autocracy and a fanatic-like worship of "The Wave". Some of them being Adolf Hitler, Indira Gandhi, Anti-Hindi agitations of Tamilnadu (1965) & Thaazha muthu Natarasan (immolated himself during the agitation) - Many students took active part in this agitation, Bhagat Singh - Sukhdev - Rajguru etc.
The movie definitely keeps you engrossed the whole 100 minutes, though you need to follow the English subtitles for the German conversations. And more importantly, it leaves you struck after it's over --- It kept me thinking a lot of things and painted a vivid collage of images, which I have tried reproducing above ... :)
My Recommendations ...
Rating : 3.5/5