Thursday, April 5, 2012

"The Wave" Movie Review

I probably watch more films than A.O. Scott. Therefore, I'm about as critical as Tiger Woods after carding bogey when watching most movies. Generally I walk away disappointed, lamenting the acting, the dialogue, the plot, the cinematography, the music, shit - the previews, the candy, whatever...Yet, I keep renting/buying tickets - not one to learn from my follies.

Two films in the past year have greatly exceeded my expectations. The first, unquestionably, is "The Skin I Live In" by my favorite (visionary) director Pedro Almodovar. All of his films are spectacular, but this one surpassed my lofty expectations. Antonio Banderas is exemplary and Elena Anaya is excruciatingly gorgeous. The plot thickens with suspense building like a novel a la John Le Carre. Truly an incredible film from start to finish. Can't say enough good things about it. WHY HAVEN'T YOU SEEN IT YET?!?!

The second, is a German film (foreign just make 'em better what can I say) titled, "The Wave."    I rented this movie from school, as it was recently acquired and I'm a sucker for provocative foreign films.

And, gotta say, it's incredible.

First, the acting/casting is poignant and precise. I can't think of a single actor who disappoints with a shoddy performance. The lead, Professor Wegner (Rainer) excels as the inspiring teacher who students respect and revere. Picture the hippest teacher you ever had with a bald head and bad teeth. Kind of like Jason Statham but with the wits of George Clooney.

The plot is fascinating and lures you in by delving into the personal lives of the students, while dutifully plodding along the primary storyline. There's just enough deviation to keep you enticed throughout, the film doesn't drag whatsoever (in fact in my opinion it could be longer).

So what's it about you ask??

A high school in Germany asks its professors to teach one week regarding a particular governmental system (all bad I should add). Students are mandated to choose one, but have discretion as to which one they prefer. The only respectable choice of course is anarchy (not a gov. system), but Rainer, despite his copious activism, is denied the opportunity to teach it. Instead, he is stuck with autocracy.

Because of his ubiquitous popularity, students reluctantly register for his class anyway and he is tasked with the monumental challenge of creating a positive learning environment without completely reprising the horrific events of the Holocaust (not that that was the only autocratic regime by any stretch).

Rainer has a few tricks up his sleeve and decides to experiment with the idea of literal autocratic rule by manipulating the students into believing it's actually the best system. Students are initially skeptical but quickly embrace the idea and a new cult on campus is born. The question is asked explicitly and rhetorically, "This could never happen again in Germany (or anywhere)...right?" The audience is left meandering between yes and no as 'The Wave' - the fledgling cult - expands and attracts new members at an alarming rate.

Within a few days, most of the campus has embraced (via peer pressure or otherwise) the movement while the dissenters become increasingly alienated and harassed. Predictably, conflict escalates as students are unprepared to grasp that this experiment is just temporary....or is it??

Events spiral downward uncontrollably, relationships are betrayed, and Rainer is left to assemble the pieces to try and reconcile the impending balance between class experiment and legitimate tour de force.

Will he be able to rescue/impede the burgeoning zeitgeist, or will his crafty experiment swallow him and the temporary(?) plan he concocted?

Watch and find out. A magnificent film from start to finish. All the more fascinating coming out of Germany given its history. Wonder how it was received there???


Anonymous said...

Actually I seriously doubt if Germany's history is actually any more violent than our own. At least they waited until the 20th cent. to practice ethnic cleansing which we began in 1492.
Without heroic explosions and adrenaline chase scenes- neither of your two movies seem to have- most Americano's will watch neither.

Anonymous said...

Great review and I will certainly want to rent that movie. Actually both. I wonder if I can find it on Netflix? I do think there are a great many wonderful foreign films. Did you ever see "The Tunnel". Another good German film(true story) about the Berlin wall and the people who attempted to escape it.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a really interesting and compelling story. Especially given the location, and the unfortunate experiment regarding human weakness. Definitely seems like a must see!

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that we do not get the info about more foreign films that can really make us think. Appreciated this review and will try to rent both movies. Sure beats what I have been watching on TV lately.

Anonymous said...

Why is it we can't even make good movies anymore in this country? What's happened to our industries?
Not only is manufacturing moving abroad but so is art and theater. So sad, someone should make a movie about it..........

Anonymous said...

Roger Ebert will be retiring sometime soon. He will need a replacement. I think you have what it takes.