This film in particular was a suggestion from a friend, and as such, I must thank them for their patronage. I very likely would not have seen this film otherwise, and after finishing it, I’m glad they recommended it… if only for the ending.
When going over The Mosquito Coast, I spoke of a certain quality to films that make them feel as though they belong in school. To serve some sort of moral message, wrapped up in a plot that is very blatant in its attempts to sway the audience. The Wave is very similar, only it’s in German (speaking from my experience as an English-speaking American) and has a little less productive firepower. Mosquito Coast had a budget of $25 million (in 1986), The Wave had a budget of €5 million (about $5.4 million), and it definitely shows.
I have a personal history of watching TV movies. Not particularly out of a sincere appreciation for them, but mostly out of boredom or intrigue involved with individual films’ topics. The Wave could fit very well in a sort of MTV Germany TV film climate, where the message is played for the general youth that historically have been MTV’s primary demographic. Much of the film’s content involves a simple premise that is slowly churned into something beyond anyone’s control, relaying tragedy as the worst-case scenario.
If the last sentence of the previous paragraph seems like a spoiler, I would argue that most people who read the premise to this film know what they’re getting into. A teacher at a high school teaches a class about autocracy, and this being a drama that takes place in Germany, one who knows even the slightest bit of world history can make the connection that it probably won’t end well. Hell, thirty minutes in one can tell that it won’t end well. This creates the largest complaint I have of the film, which some may see as going against the point.
Don’t be Nazis. Don’t assume you’re better than other people just because you’re a hivemind. Exclusivity leads to contempt and cynicism. There are good and bad qualities to unity and being there to support one another, but within a range that is inclusive of all, rather than a small demographic of cunts. I got it within thirty minutes, and wouldn’t you know? There was more than an hour left of runtime, with scene after scene only continuing the obvious trend to a bad end. In a way, it was almost like watching a more intentionally obvious and clean-cut (pun intended) version of Uncut Gems. Building tension through bad decisions, foreshadowed actions, and cues for something very dark waiting in the background. We don’t get a release until the very end.
And with The Wave the release was very gratifying, especially with all the numbing effect all that came before had up to that point. If nothing else, watching this is worth it for feeling the full effects of the final scene. Don’t do so if anything I’ve said prior sounds like a chore, but if you have some interest lingering, the ending is pretty… yeesh. I bumped up the score about half a point just for the appropriate downfall that came with the premise.
Also like Mosquito Coast, a lot of any character expression is lost in the prospect of developing the plot (somewhat obvious, though still worth mentioning). I remember some kids that were really joke-y, really outspoken, really rebellious, etc., though I wonder if their lack of individual development somewhat hurts the overall experience. Yes, the point is to turn them into fascist zombies, I understand, and one kid’s transformation is at least believable considering his implied mental condition. Much of the rest simply become zombies for the sake of it, and part of me doesn’t wish to check it off as simply, “Kids are dumb and will get carried away by their emotions.” It pushes the logical boundaries just a tad too much, only further instilling the giant mass of monotone that comes with the predictable nature of the story’s course.
Nevertheless, it’s an interesting (if only in parts) portrayal of a social experiment gone bad. The type of thing you’re likely to learn about in high school/college psychology classes. It fits the moniker of educational entertainment (edutainment?) just a tad too much for my tastes, though the ending is quite harrowing. If sitting through class to get to a great lunch sounds cool, then go for it, and tell ’em Kopo sent ya.
Final Score: 5.5/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
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Thank you for your time. Have a great day.