Die Welle Movie Analysis

Die Welle Movie Tag

Director: Dennis Gansel
Producers: Christian Becker, Nina Maag, Antia Schneider
Screenplay: Dennis Gansel, Peter Thorwarth
Cast: Jürgen Vogel, Max Reimelt, Jennifer Ulrich, Jocob Matschenz, Frederick Lau Production Year: 2008
Duration: 107 min.
Country: Germany

The director of the 2008 German film Die Welle (The Wave) is Dennis Gansel, who won the 27th International Istanbul Film Festival Special Jury Award. The movie, which is about a lived experiment called The Third Wave, is based on Morton Rhue’s novel ‘Die Welle’.

Analysis of Die Welle Movie

Autocracy; In the first lesson of his class, teacher Rainer Wenger defined this concept as follows. “Autocracy comes from the Greek. In other words, ‘auto’ means self, and ‘cracy’ means ruling, power. The person or persons in power in an autocracy are so powerful that they can even change the laws as they wish.” Throughout the film, we see how the power that holds the power in autocracy or dictatorship regimes shapes the society, controls and molds its thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Almost all of the students agreed and conformed to the ideology of the government. We see that they easily accept the ways and methods of power without questioning. At this stage, those who oppose were first removed by the government and then excluded by the group.

In the first ten minutes of the movie, it is seen that high school students live a very bohemian life, spend time with parties and entertainment and use substances. They do not seem to have any ideology. Being free and comfortable is their top priority. However, as the film progresses and the group gains a sense of belonging, we see that they can easily compromise their freedom, which is the most striking expression of wearing white shirts, become monotonous, their individual characteristics fade away and their group identities come to the fore. On the one hand, it was ensured that students who were quite disconnected from each other, indifferent and prejudiced against each other, bonded with each other within the group, by feeding off their common ideologies, and by losing the importance of individual differences. On the other hand, students who accepted their group members as a whole by protecting Tim, whom they did not make friends with, and inviting them to group activities, started to display hostile and exclusionary attitudes towards students who were not from their own group, that is, out-group. In one scene, a student named Sinan comes with ice creams in his hand and gives ice cream to the members of Dalga, but does not give it to his friend who is not a member of Dalga.

The film makes very clear references to the Nazi regime, and in the autocracy lesson, the idea that a fascist regime could not emerge again, how it went towards a fascist administration began to be seen later. Rainer, the teacher who was called by his name in the first lesson, wanted to be called Mr. Wenger after he became the leader. The name given to Hitler in Nazi Germany is reminiscent of Der Führer. ‘Power through discipline’ is one of the first titles in the movie. Ideology, which shows discipline as a useful method for the individual, takes control of the individual’s body and behavior with the discipline method.

In the movie, we witness that the teacher makes the class practice physical exercises. One of these movements is the exercise of walking in place, and the power that emerges when you act together with this exercise becomes visible. Mr. Wegner introduces the definition of ‘power through unity’. Another important thing happening during this time is the ‘lesson of anarchy’ being an enemy to the troop power. Mr Wenger says: “Now I want the plaster on the ceiling to be poured over the heads of our enemies.” In the face of this sentence, students begin to tap their feet with much more tempo and enthusiasm. Creating a common enemy perception is also one of the symbolic means of violence used by the power, thus legitimizing its authority and power. ‘We cannot fight life alone, but together we will be stronger. Wieland trains students who fight alone, believing that by doing so they will perform better. It seems to me that such a competitive society is emerging, and I’m sure we will be much stronger if we support each other’.

Rainer advises the students to become a troop force rather than fight alone, so that he begins to control behavior as well. Uniform dressing, For the Wave group, these white shirts and jeans are the most obvious symbolic indicator of violence, because thus, the distinction between in-group and out-group can be made very easily. Like armbands in Nazi Germany that made the identities of Jews visible from the outside. In the film, we see that violence against out-groups started to emerge after this point. On the other hand, we see that exclusionary behavior is exhibited against members who do not fit in not only outside the group but also within the group (who do not wear white shirts). Uniform dressing is used by the government as a tool that strengthens group belonging. Carrying this clothing symbol turns into a way to protect one’s interests and oneself after a point.

After the group is shaped in appearance, new features such as name, logo and special greetings are added. The group has its own website. Again, all of this points to the fact that the government keeps the control of the masses through the symbols and discourses it produces. Mr. Wenger finally introduces the definition of ‘Power through action’. In the action dimension, students descend in the city center at night, painting and sticking their emblems all over the city. They are committing acts of violence by damaging public property. It also shows the audience how much the experiment that took place in this classroom environment actually affects the students. Another violent event is the Wave group getting into a fight with another group they call anarchists. During this fight, Tim’s threat to the other group with a gun shows how far the violence can go.

We see that the experiment has different effects on different students. Having difficulties in expressing his individual identity and in social relations, Tim is one of the students experiencing the biggest change. Tim acquires the social belonging that he lacked before with Dalga and develops an extreme commitment from the first lesson. Increasingly marginalized, Tim acquires a gun and demands to be Mr. Wenger’s bodyguard. At the end of the movie, Tim, who is devastated by the disintegration of the group, leads to an unexpected ending. Karo, on the other hand, is a popular and beloved student. Although she likes the experiment at first, she starts to think that things are getting out of control and tries to prevent it. Karo’s opposition is because the Wave causes violence. Karo is seriously worried after seeing her brother refuse to let a student who doesn’t give the Wave salute to school. Looking at these two students, we see that the effect of the dominant ideology on the characteristics of the individual can also change.

Freud used mass psychology to explain how an individual thinks, feels, and behaves very differently from what is expected of him. Le Bon defines the audience as: “The most striking characteristic of a psychological mass is this: the individuals who make up the mass, whoever they are, no matter how similar their lifestyles, occupations, characters or intelligences are, or how different they differ from each other, to have turned into a mass is to become a mass. It makes them possess a kind of collective spirit that enables them to feel, think and act very differently than they would feel, think and act alone. Just as the cells in an organism come together to form a new being, a living, living body that exhibits very different characteristics from what each of them had when alone, so the psychological mass is an entity composed of different kinds of elements that have come together for a moment, temporarily.(Freud, 1921, p.9)

Freud, under the influence of the mass, undergoes a profound metamorphosis in one’s mental actions; He stated that while his tendency to become emotional became extraordinarily strong, his mental abilities decreased remarkably, and both processes were aimed at drawing the individual to the middle level of the mass, and that it was only possible if the individual stopped expressing his own tendencies. Intense emotional attachments are observed in the masses. This situation leads to the lack of independence and initiative (initiative) of the mass members, the similarity they show in their reactions, and their descent to almost the level of a mass person. Characteristics of audience members: “Weakening of his intellectual faculties, inability to control himself emotionally, difficulty in calming and delaying these feelings, going beyond all limits in the expression of emotions and achieving a complete discharge by turning them into action.”(Freud, 1921, p.64)

While speaking of the moral values ​​of the mass, Freud drew attention to the following emphasis, as the members under an indoctrination may pursue higher goals such as renunciation, altruism, and devotion to an ideal: “It is necessary to take into account the fact that when individuals come together to form a mass, all individual inhibitions disappear, and all the cruel, savage, and destructive instincts that slumber in their souls as a relic of ancient times are activated to give them free satisfaction.”(Freud, 1921, p. 16).

We see all these features that Freud said about mass psychology in The Wave. In particular, behaviors such as students not questioning many things, exhibiting more impulsive and more primitive-aggressive behaviors, displaying different characteristics from their personality, experiencing intense emotions and acting out are quite clearly seen in the above-mentioned film flow. Rainer provides a striking example of where these traits can lead the group at his big meeting at school. In order for students to grasp what’s going on, they need to experience exactly such a living example. But the individual psychological problems that Rainer couldn’t think of can also affect the audience, and this is where Tim takes the stage. Finding her own meaningfulness through the Wave ends with her being unable to accept the fact that this is over, first shooting a friend and then committing suicide.

Group in social psychology; It refers to the social structure formed by two or more people who interact with each other and are connected to each other in line with their needs and goals. Most groups contain specific well-defined social roles. These roles indicate how people are expected to behave. After a while, people may come under the influence of this social role, in which case their individual characteristics and character may be gradually erased (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2007). The most famous experiment dealing with the impact of social roles on the individual is Philiph Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment (Haney, Banks & Zimbardo, 1973). Zimbardo et al designed an unusual experimental environment. They created a mock prison in the basement of Stanford University’s Psychology department and paid students to play the roles of ‘guard’ and ‘prisoner’. Who will play which role is determined by tossing a coin. While the guards wore a khaki trousers and a shirt, a whistle, a police job and sunglasses, the prisoners wore a working overalls with identification numbers on the collar and rubber sandals. The researchers aimed to observe for two weeks whether the students would behave like real guards and prisoners. However, the students went so far in these roles that the experiment had to be terminated on the sixth day. In the experiment, the students in the role of guards started to use bad words and verbally hostile and insulting. Students in the prisoner role started to behave passively, helplessly and introverted. In fact, some detainees were excluded from the study earlier than other students because they showed signs of anxiety and depression (Haney, Banks & Zimbardo, 1973). This whole experiment is an important indicator of how over-acting on social roles suppresses personal characteristics.

As in Zimbardo’s prison experiment, in the Wave group, we see that students adopt their new roles very quickly and begin to act in harmony with these roles. As it was seen in Zimbardo’s experiment that things went much further than expected and led to violence, the Wave movement also leads to the emergence of both verbal and physical violence. Rainer harshly warned the students when he saw that they had painted the symbol of the Wave on a tall building in the newspaper, but the aggression that emerged was evident in the match they went to support. Finally, Rainer realized how far he had gone when he learned that one of his students had fought and slapped his girlfriend because of the Wave. Just as Zimbardo canceled the experiment, Rainer decided to end the Wave movement.

Deindividuation is another topic of social psychology. The identity of the person within a particular group becomes more anonymous. When the personality becomes ambiguous, the person feels less pressure to control their behavior and may exhibit more impulsive and unusual behaviors. In other words, mingling with a crowd can unleash behaviors one cannot even imagine doing (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2007). Robert Watson (1973), in his study of warriors in 24 cultures, stated that fighters who hide their identity by painting their faces or bodies before entering battle kill, torture and take prisoners much more. In the process of identity uncertainty, the person feels less responsible for their behavior. When the wave group descends into the city center to spread their emblem, they hide their identities by covering their faces. Thus, they can commit the illegal act more easily and feel less responsible.

As a result, the movie Die Welle, on the one hand, reveals types of violence such as physical violence, verbal violence, indirect violence, and on the other hand, it has managed to convey the implicit symbolic violence quite effectively.

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