One of the key arguments of historians and history teachers everywhere is that the only way to keep from repeating the mistakes of the past is to teach the lessons of them. If history isn’t taught, future generations will go into the world ignorant of the disastrous consequences of idealism. The Wave, a German re-make of an American film of the same name, was a natural fit for my interests, following the educational experiment of Social Studies teacher Rainer Wenger, who decides to bring a whole new method of hands-on learning into his classroom.
Wenger, a man with anarchist sympathies and a somewhat unorthodox style, is frequently shunned by his teaching colleagues as a nut. Near the end of the school year, an elective project on differing styles of government is introduced to the curriculum, and rather than getting to teach Anarchy, as he’d prefer, Wenger is forced by his colleagues into teaching Autocracy. Disappointed by how many of the students are taking the Autocracy class, and further disappointed by how many of them scoff at the notion that Germany could ever become a Fascist regime again, Rainer Wenger decides to start practicing different subtle fascist techniques in his classroom to show the students just how quickly and easily they would embrace such an ideology.
What follows is, naturally an absolute disaster. The students, particularly the weak and outcasts, lap up the ideas of energy, discipline, and strength through community. Everyday students begin standing with each other against bullies, adapting a common uniform, and otherwise running around the town to bring attention to their passé. Wenger, unaware of many of the extra-curriculars of the students, continues with his experiment, blown away with its “success” (The students all improve their academic performance). In the course of one week, by the time Rainer Wenger lets the students in on exactly what he has been doing, the damage is far too severe to be undone.
This is a really good viewing, although it isn’t without its faults. You’ll find yourself asking just how none of the dozens of students caught on to what was being done, nor why Wenger, upon seeing the impact it was having did not decide to spill the beans earlier and mitigate the damage. The message is clear; fascism is an attractive ideology to many, especially those with weak individual constitutions and feel better with the constant support and company of others. But it is a work of fiction at its core and I think that the likelihood that this sort of thing would take place is not great. Though, I just finished watching Pacific Rim (it was horrible) and everything else seems a little more believable by comparison.
One more thing; the film is in German, and I know the prospect of reading subtitles is a turn-off to many viewers. Don’t let that stop you from seeing this one, and, if you must, try to look up the 1980’s American TVB version if it is preferable to you. Even with the subtitles, this film has much better acting (The byproduct of European stage actors, I think) than most out there, and the dialogue, even through a language barrier, is powerful and believable. The movie is free to watch on Netflix , so any time you are free, give it a go.