I watched this movie—Die Welle—yesterday. It’s the story of a German high school class (although apparently it’s based on a true story that took place in the United States, which is an interesting sort of inversion of the postwar German complaint that Americans were appropriating German history, thereby not letting Germans themselves come to terms with it—here, there’s an appropriation of American history to come to terms with Germany’s). There’s a project week in which different classes have to learn about different forms of non-democratic government. The cool, good guy teacher gets assigned autocracy (though he’s a former anarchist of sorts). His students assert that there couldn’t possibly ever be a dictatorship in Germany again. The teacher then decides that the class will take on an autocratic structure for the week (fully understanding, the viewer assumes, his own lesson plan). First in style, then in substance. And then much deeper in substance than anyone thought possible.
I don’t want to say anything more about the plot, because I do think, oh Reader, that you, if you’re interested in German history or Germany today or human mentality or movies about high school that don’t involve love by way of a total makeover (yeah, me neither), should watch this film. Because ultimately what I want to say about Die Welle is that everyone should think for himself what there is to say about it.