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Monday, 22 September 2008

The Wave (Die Welle) - Experiment that turned a school into a police state

Thanks to Andy D sending me news on this film.
It is the ultimate classroom mind-game. A charismatic teacher suddenly introduces strict discipline into his lessons and, far from rebelling, the students embrace it with gusto. Within a week, they have devised a uniform, insignia, salute and banners, and eagerly spy on and intimidate schoolmates. The movement swells to more than 200 members who, on the last day, flock to a rally.
Dennis Gansel, whose new film, The Wave, tells this story, has a colourful, very German family history. "My grandfather was in the Wehrmacht, a big supporter of Adolf Hitler, and my father was a 1968 anarchist. Christmas dinner at our house was always explosive," says the 34-year-old director. His two last features dealt with Nazis and the Red Army Faction. The Wave is another typical - even stereotypical - German subject, with an improbable, highly melodramatic premise.

In fact the experiment - known as the Wave - actually took place, in April 1967 at Cubberley High School, Northern California. Ron Jones, the teacher, had arrived there straight from training college. He soon became famed for his unorthodox methods: making students at the almost all-white school use different toilets to demonstrate apartheid, for instance.

Former students describe Jones as brilliant, by far the most popular teacher in school. "He was boyish and appealing - he could sell air-conditioners in Alaska," recalls Philip Neel. "Everyone wanted to be in his class. So at first we thought the Wave was him doing something funny."

At the end of the week - in life and in the film - the teacher announces a new national political party, with a new leader. Only then is the hoax revealed. "We were in a state of shock; there were kids crying," recalls ex-pupil Mark Hancock. "He wound that class up as tight as a drum."

Read more here.

This looks pretty good. What do you think of it?