Dennis Gansel :: Germany :: 2008 :: 1h48
High school teacher Rainer Wenger (played by Jürgen Vogel) is assigned a week long teaching course on autocracy. His students bore at the thought of talking about the Nazi’s again and are convinced a fascist rise to power would no longer be possible in contemporary Germany. Rainer looks at the motley group of students before him, and embarks them into a movement, baptized the Wave, which will show them how fascism rises.
The story is based on the 1967 events in California, of high school teacher Ron Jones’ demonstration of how the Nazi’s could come to power. This movie, which follows the famous experiment, is set in a contemporary, affluent German town. The story is so well known, that not only do you pretty much know how it will all unfold, you can not help but wonder how come the students do not know the story if it is set in the here and now. And then there is the whole route from class today to the autocratic group – it is all so naive. Would they really not see the parallel between themselves and the Nazi films and anti-Nazi speeches they have been bombarded with throughout their youth? And all of this in a week?
La Vague is like a teenage re-run of a story you already know, with a moral you already know. Even though it runs at close to 2 hours, it does not offer any new insight into fascism, politics or human psychology. The political vision portrayed is simplistic and does not help to understand the challenges faced by those living under autocratic rule today. Or, closer to home, the film does not address the subtitles of the democratic/ authoritarian balance faced by many nations today. Unless, by some unlikely series of coincidences, you have missed out on the whole story and need a (relatively) quick fix, I would miss out on this one.