login | register

The Wave


Year: 2008 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Dennis Gansel 
Starring: Jürgen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt and Jennifer Ulrich.  
An image from The Wave

Based on a 1960s experiment conducted by Ron Jones in a California high school, “The Wave” follows charismatic and unconventional teacher Rainier Wegner (Jürgen Vogel), an ageing radical, who is disappointed that he cannot teach his class about anarchy and instead attempts to engage them with autocracy. After being met with apathy, he forms an idea for an experiment. The class elects him as leader and Rainier demands that students address him as ‘Mr Wegner’, they must stand up when they wish to speak and repeat the motto of the day “strength through discipline”. Within a week students name the movement ‘The Wave’ and begin wearing a uniform of white, formulate a logo and create a secret handshake reminiscent of the Nazi salute. The organization soon escalates and events take a dangerous turn when unstable and disturbed Tim (Frederick Lau) becomes elected as Lieutenant and what began as a class experiment snowballs out of control.

Director Dennis Gansel is dealing with complex and dark issues, yet the film manages to maintain a breathtaking pace from its opening sequence of Rainier driving to school to the disturbing yet logical conclusion of the film’s narrative. Vogel plays the enigmatic Rainier with enthusiasm and transforms from affable to frightening over the course of the film. Frederick Lau and Jennifer Ulrich, as disturbed student Tim and dissenter Karo respectively, are also believable as students caught up in the whirlwind momentum of ‘The Wave.’ The chilling effect of the finale is made more profound by the film’s setting in Germany, and the ultimate message of the film lies in the students’ harsh lesson: the dangers of fascism cannot be relegated to the pages of history books and the roots of fascism can grow anywhere.

Laura Potter

More Information | Back to Previous Schedule | This Season  |  BBFC Classification Guidelines

Screenings of this film:

2008/2009 Spring Term (35mm)
2008/2009 Spring Term (35mm)