Die Welle shows modern Nazi dictatorship
A new German film called Die Welle (The Wave) looks at the possibilities of how a new Nazi dictatorship could rise, even in a country where the young are taught at great length about the history of the Nazi uprising.
The film is based on the real life experiment carried out in California in 1967 by high school teacher Ron Jones, where in just five days the students blindly followed a regime of obedience and conformity, and when others criticised it events began to grow out of control.
It's quite a surprising read to hear what actually happened, in that Jones created an experiment to demonstrate how the Nazi party grew in power so easily because he was unable to explain exactly why it happened.
The experiment involved drilling his students and creating a unique sense of discipline and order to their lives. Soon they were quiet, obedient and began believing passionately about what they stood for. They recited motos, wore similar uniforms, had their own salute, were issued with member cards and were given specific duties.
Surprisingly their academic skills showed great improvement, however things began getting out of hand quickly. The group began growing in popularity and membership and those outside the group who criticised them were shown strong and aggressive behaviour. The members even started policing each other against those who broke the rules.
The teacher ended the experiment abruptly by tricking them to a private gathering where they expected to meet the leader of their movement, instead he showed them a video of Hitler and the Nazi regime, explaining that they had been part of an experiment.
Apparently this had a profound affect on them and they never spoke of it again. However there have been several works based on it, and now this film which sets the story in modern Germany.
"It's wrong to say, 'No way -- a Nazi dictatorship could never happen here'...I think it would be possible even today for something like that to arise in Germany again."
His version of the story is set in a Berlin suburb filled with modern day, undisciplined youths who have little respect or manners for anyone around them, and when a new teacher arrives, he inspires them to action.
However it appears in this version of the film that the teenagers involved in the experiment go much further than they did in real life, growing much larger and spiralling out of control, turning to violence much easier than they would have in the sixties.
Gansel has been a fan of the book by Todd Strasser, under the pen name of Morton Rhue, (Play.com / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com) for some time, a book that he read in high school, and a book that is taught in many German schools.
His closing comment is perhaps the most interesting, showing that this example of group control is not just about political parties, or indeed cults, in fact it's something that we can see to this very day in western society, in football or in a more extreme example, in the war on terror:
"Group dynamics can be benevolent but they can also be menacing...It's frightening how fast it can change. Just look at what happened in the United States after 9/11."
That certainly is food for thought and when you contemplate the idea you do appreciate the connections.
I've never read the novel, but now I most definitely will make an effort to. You can read more about the real experiment on Wikipedia, and watch out for the film, Die Welle (The Wave).
You can see a teaser and trailer over at the official site, and although I can't understand much of it, once you know the story you can see how it's going to play out, and it certainly looks powerful.