Thought provoking Wave

Movie review of the German sociopolitical thriller Die Welle (2008), shown at a movie night organised by TRU Intercultural Council to discuss acceptance in social groups, unity, conformity, bullying and the chances of a dictatorship in first world societies.

German movie Die Welle (The Wave) was shown on campus at the TRU Intercultural Council’s second monthly event, held Wednesday, Nov. 21, at the Alumni Theatre in the Clock Tower.  Approximately 50 students and some faculty left studying for midterms and assignments aside to enjoy an evening of film and discussion with free popcorn and drinks.

The Intercultural Council, which aims to integrate domestic, international and aboriginal students into the university culture, organized a movie night after an on campus DJ event last month.

“We wanted to do something that would be interesting, thought provoking, entertaining and [with] a cultural relevance,” said Andrew Dalgleish, a TRU student and member of the Intercultural Council.

2008’s Die Welle, directed by Dennis Gansel, fulfills those requirements. The movie is based on a real event in April 1967 at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California. A high-school teacher experimented on how democratic societies are not immune to dictatorships. The recent movie script is actually based on a previous film and novelization from 1981, which moved the events to Germany.

“There is [a] dangerous assumption which thinks fascism and totalitarian societies are a thing of the past,” Dalgleish said. “It’s important to realize it could happen anywhere and that we need to see how it develops. I think the movie demonstrates that.”

The movie starts just like any other teen movie: the cool teacher Rainer Wenger singing the Ramones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll High School on the way to class, the popular athletes gang (a water polo team trained by Rainer), the hippy, the nerd, the bullies…it’s all fairly standard high-school fare.

The plot starts with a project week about autocracy that ends up creating an autocratic movement. The movement becomes The Wave, Rainer becomes Mr. Wenger and the wave gets out of control when the movement’s members felt the power of belonging, social acceptance and collective power against a common enemy that, in this case, is another class studying the political theories of anarchism.

After the film, concepts such as acceptance in social groups, the concepts of unity and conformity, bullying and the chances of a dictatorship in the current first world societies were pointed out in a discussion moderated by Intercultural Council members.

“After watching the movie, I think [dictatorship] may be possible anywhere on the right conditions. We have the tendency to think that it happens only in places where the social conditions are very poor but the thing about Die Welle is that [it] shows conditions can be quite good and those types of ideologies can still take hold,” said Kyra Garson, a TRU Intercultural Coordinator and special guest to the event. “To me, what was really interesting from that [intercultural] perspective was that even in a highly individualistic society they structure The Wave because they need to belong, they need to have meaning and [the movement] chase them away very quickly.”

The event closed with international trivia & prizes. The Intercultural Council will be hosting a new event in campus in January 2013.


This was originally published on the independent student newspaper The Omega, while I was a Journalism exchange student at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in 2012. You can read more about this experience on my Spanish blog #fromkamloops. Read the article online on The Omega’s website or the print version on Pinterest. 

Author: Oriol Salvador

Journalist in the age of new media. Pop culture nerd and social media Jedi. Over ten years of experience producing, managing and distributing digital content on online platforms and social media channels.

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