Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Wave (1981)

Directed by Alexander Grasshoff. This won an Emmy at a time when I think it you just got an Emmy if you scared the living fuck out of people. If you made a TV movie that suggested that the Russians might drop the bomb before the next commercial break, you got an Emmy. If you made a TV movie that suggested your tap water was flammable, you got an Emmy.

"The Wave" was Based On A True Story, which one of the more meaningless phrases around. History teacher Burt Ross proposes a school club called "The Wave" that promotes power, discipline and superiority. Through subtle passive aggression he promotes recruitment through high pressure.

His goal is to illustrate the climate of 1930s Germany to his students. However, they are apparently too dumb to see the connection and so starved for any kind of organization and structure in their lives that they LOVE IT! Eventually though, he herds them all into a gymnasium and says shame on you, you stupid kids, that's just how Hitler convinced all the dumb Nazis to kill Jews and what are you, like a bunch of wild Nazis and what if I had asked you to kill Jews, would you have just done that? You can just imagine if a teacher tried this today. Damn, these days if a teacher bring peanuts to class they get tarred and feathered.

Either this Burt Ross is a complete creep or this is the most poorly set up screenplay I've seen in a long time. To justify the second act, in which Ross introduces the Wave, shouldn't the kids NOT QUITE GET the proliferation of Nazi power? Shouldn't they question the likelihood of the widespread acceptance of the Final Solution? Wouldn't that somehow justify an experiment as daring as the Wave? BUT NO! When Ross explains the execution of Jews, Gays, gypsies, blacks, the disabled, and several other religions, the high school kids are appropriately horrified and seem in no way incredulous. So why traumatize them? It makes no sense.

Yet "The Wave" seems to be a classic of some sort, despite it barely airing. I could not verify this, but I have heard that it aired only once or twice on US TV because it was ultimately deemed too intense. Well, Stan in the "South Park" movie may have said it best when he asked, "Dude, what the fuck is wrong with German people?" Germany re-made this crazy thing just last year as "Die Welle," though I'll bet that's a lot better than "The Wave: The Musical," which I apologize for writing off without listening to even though I could download the whole thing for free at

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