Today´s blog post entry is going to deal with a film I was recently watching, which shows very well how easy it is to fall back into the times of terror and dictatorship. “Die Welle” (The wave, 2008) is a movie based on Ron Jone´s social experiment “the third wave” . A high school teacher creates an autocratic class system in his school class with him as the leader and has to realize within days that his students don´t only participate at the experiment but become fanatic about it. The argument that another Third Reich would not be possible today due to all the information channels and general knowledge about history lost its relevance because of this experiment.
Interestingly those students who had been socially left out in school and were generally considered “nerds” were the ones who were the easiest to convene and in fact the most active during the experiment. Once the teacher in the film, Mr. Wenger, realizes that the experiment has gone too far and stops it, Tim, the stereotypical “nerd”, prefers to shoot himself at the end of the film rather than living without the movement, fearing to be lonely again. The film underlines how easy it is to manipulate people by giving them a rigid social structure and a sense of a social belonging. Out of a sudden, the students are not split in their usual little groups and divided in “cool” and “uncool” anymore, but united within a single movement, following an autocratic teacher; a leader so to speak. All the characters in the movie can be related to real time personalities or at least to people the audience can relate to.
As already stated, there is Tim, the fanatic. Being socially excluded, he finds a place in the “wave” where he is valued and can function. Caro, on the other hand, is comparable to Sophie Scholl. She understands how dangerous the social experiment has become and opposes it, running risk to be threatened and pursued. Marco, however, might be the most interesting of all characters. He is Caro´s boyfriend and one of the “cooler “students in the class. Marco is quiet and a dreamer and doesn´t seem to have an interest in anything. Apart from Tim, he is the one who flourishes the most within the movement, which leads to a violent conflict with his girlfriend. Marco can be described as the typical Nazi follower- uncritical, a bit lost with a need of structure. He is the one that Hanna Arendt had in mind when she wrote about the Eichmann process in Jerusalem and famously described the Nazi murderer as “banal” (Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, 1963). What stuck me with this story is the ease and the effortless of fascism. Even after all this years it hasn´t lost its dangerous appeal to people. The film, therefore, is undeniably crucial to watch because it reminds us all how fragile our freedom is.