Based on the book "The Wave" by Morton Rhue [which was itself inspired by a social experiment called "The Third Wave" that took place at a Californian high school in 1967] this fantastic German film demonstrates the simplistic but dangerous appeal that fascism, socialism and other collectivist ideologies can have for people who feel they are adrift or for those seeking easy answers to their own and society's problems - i.e. mostly, but not exclusively, the young.
Well acted, gripping and thought-provoking, it tells the story of a one week project devised by a German high school teacher to show his students the ease with which an autocracy can be established. "Do you think another dictatorship would be impossible in Germany?" Herr Wenger asks his pupils at the start of the project. "It's never going to happen again" replies one. "We're beyond all that" says another and, so it seems, they are. Indeed, the hedonistic, disorderly world they inhabit with its techno parties, prolific drug-taking, on-line social networking and general decadence seems about as far removed from Germany's National Socialist past as it's possible to get. Their home lives too lack order as their post-1960s, liberal parents engage in over-familiar mateyness with their children or lead sexually promiscuous lives in front of them. As one character points out her parents are just "too cool". Needless to say, craving the order, discipline and stability that is lacking both in their home lives and in the 'anything goes' society around them, these young people take to fascism like ducks to water. They are, to varying degrees, quite prepared to sacrifice their individuality for conformity - for the sense of belonging they get by being a part of something greater than themselves and the empowerment they derive from the unity of the group. Very quickly though, perhaps too quickly in my view, the project begins to run out of control both inside and outside of the school. Even the teacher himself becomes intoxicated by the deference his students begin to show towards him as his manipulative project unfolds.
There are, of course, dissenting voices and not everybody accepts the new order. I won't spoil the ending but, suffice to say, the truism that the simplistic remedies to society's ills promised by fascistic & socialistic ideology hold the most appeal for the most damaged means that there isn't a happy ending. This is a terrific film with a message that is particularly relevant to young people growing up in Britain today. Watch it.