Film Review: The wave (Die Welle, 2008)

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The engineering of consent for an autocratic regime amid the apparently chaotic cohort is an intriguing subject visited and revisited by the artists and story-tellers all throughout the twentieth century. Is there a servile aspect in our character ready to obey a sinister idea and a vain promise? Is there a masochistic side we share that is ever-so glutton for punishment? The wave touches all of these and more.

Rainer, a high school teacher is assigned to teach a class about autocracy.  He agreed with sincere discontent as he feels the subject to be away from him as much as it can. Still he makes a sincere effort to make his students, a bunch of unruly teenagers apparently miles away from believing anything, let alone authoritarianism, to understand the core concept through a week-long social experiment: forming a group called The Wave. With his charisma and openness, Rainer brings the idea of autocracy into light, using the classical tools that any tyrannical leader uses: asking to be better than a fictitious other (here the anarchism class taught by a fellow teacher), urging to stand together and invoke awe into the heart of others through that unity, feel to be a part of a whole larger than one individual, find a common purpose and work for it. In some strange away, the youngsters of a very affluent society, apparently dissociated from any ideological tenets, feel drawn to the entire fiasco, as in someway they are ravenous for finding a meaning of their otiose existence. The events of the film gradually descends into much more baleful affair, leaving us with awe and disdain, vainglory and disgrace.

The most important feature of The wave is its narrative of an anarchist harbouring a side famished for power that he himself was unaware of. It is what makes the film from a mere insight into the human psyche to a soul-searching mirror for all of us.

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