the fresh films reviews

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Die Welle (2008)

Dennis Gansel
The Wave
Gran Torino
101 minutes
Nina Maag
Screenwriter (based on the novel by Todd Strasser):
Dennis Gansel
Peter Thorwart

Cast includes:

Rainer Wenger Jürgen Vogel ½
Tim Stoltefuss Frederick Lau ½
Marco Max Riemelt
Karo Jennifer Ulrich
Anke Wenger Christiane Paul
Dennis Jacob Matschenz
Lisa Cristina do Rego
Sinan Elyas M'Barek



Dennis Gansel brings in the renowned actors Jürgen Vogel (2006's Der Freie Wille) and Max Riemelt (who played the lead in Gansel's previous film NaPolA) for his rendition of The Third Wave - an educational experiment conducted by history teacher Ron Jones in Palo Alto, California back in 1967. Jones' intention was to show the force and allure of the nazi movement to his disbelieving students, arguing that they could be as easily influenced and lead as the people of Nazi Germany. The project was made into a much discussed film already in 1981, starring Bruce Davison as the professor.

Although the idea behind The Third Wave / The Wave / Die Welle remains interesting also in our times, and even if Gansel brings the setting back to the country where the nazis first conducted this "experiment" (with success), it is hard not to take what Gansel tries to communicate here with a solid pinch of salt. Bearing in mind that even the validity of the alleged results of Ron Jones' experiment is widely discussed (by many even dismissed), it will take some extra rationalization on Gansel's behalf in order to justify the lengths to which he suggests a high-school teacher is able to influence this large group of essentially adult and seemingly independent students anno 2008 during one single week. From my point of view, this rationalization isn't given to a satisfactory extent, and without dismissing the power of mass-suggestion in general, I would claim that Die Welle probably functions more as scare tactics opposing unity and organization than it works as a valuable historical reminder. Most viewers, especially those of the age group in question, will probably also feel rather offended by the lack of confidence this film has in them.

The acting is generally useful, with Vogel and Lau both providing lots of potency in performances which would have been more effective had their actions been more justified. Gansel's mistake here is to disregard the fact that youths of today are more informed and educated than they have ever been. Despite continuing to scratch fascinating surfaces, Die Welle represents a step back for this talented filmmaker.


Copyright © 22.1.2009 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang