The Wave (Die Welle) (2008)

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Released 3-Jun-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Interviews-Cast-Jurgen Vogel
Trailer-Madman Propaganda
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 96:02 (Case: 101)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Dennis Gansel

Madman Entertainment
Starring Jürgen Vogel
Frederick Lau
Max Riemelt
Jennifer Ulrich
Christiane Paul
Jacob Matschenz
Cristina do Rego
Elyas M'Barek
Maximilian Vollmar
Max Mauff
Ferdinand Schmidt-Modrow
Tim Oliver Schultz
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Heiko Maile

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Wave is a 2008 German film set in a modern German high school. However, it bears the by-line "based on a true story". The true story is not one from modern Germany but rather a social experiment carried out in a US high school in the 1960's. Like all good "true stories" The Wave picks up on the ethos of the original experiment but brings the tale to a violent and dramatic end which bore no relation to the real story.

Nevertheless, it is an entertaining and sometimes tense drama about the ease with which a group of people can take ideals of unity and common purpose to extremes. In short, it shows how easy it is for the populous to embrace fascism. The fact that the story has been transplanted from the US to Germany carries significant resonance and it is either no wonder or a great surprise that the film was a huge hit in German cinemas.

It is Project Week at school. Teacher Rainer Wenger (Jurgen Vogel) gets ready to prepare to teach a week of anarchy. He is well credentialed to teach his free thinking charges of the benefits of social activism, having lived in a squat for many years, dressing like an ageing rebel and playing The Ramones at full blast in his car.

However this year it will be different. His conservative colleague has snapped up the Anarchy project leaving Wenger with Autocracy.

On the first day of Project Week things don't seem to be going too well. Despite Wenger's reputation as a cool teacher the students are mostly disinterested. "Not the Third Reich again" cries one student and another suggests that it is all ancient history - it could never happen again. Determined to spark them out of this complacency Wenger comes up with a plan for the week. The kids just have to follow the rules but otherwise don't have to do any real work - they love it!

The beginnings are subtle. Wenger demands to be addressed as Mr Wenger and students must stand before they answer a question. They are to sit up straight and pay attention. This piques the interest of the class, but it is only when Wenger suggests that they all wear the same clothing (a white shirt) and work together on projects such as websites, logos and even sharing answers on tests so that the weaker students can excel, do the class really begin to gather momentum. Strength through unity.

Quickly things begin to change. The creepy, odd kid now has a sense of identity and protection within a group. The bully who acted randomly now becomes an enforcer for the group. The selfish water polo player Marco (Frederik Lau) starts passing the ball and the team begins winning. The final step is when a student suggests, and Vogel agrees, to a salute. The salute echoes the name the group has adopted - The Wave.

Matters predictably and swiftly slide out of control. For all the unity that The Wave brings to its members it also brings the dark side - intolerance towards non-conformists and slavish devotion to the ideal. Marco knows this well. His girlfriend Karo (Jennifer Ulrich) is aghast when the students begin to look the same, talk the same and act all the world like a gang. Their relationship is damaged when she opts out of the class. So too does Wenger's relationship with his wife suffer.

Director Denis Gansel keeps the action in the film tight with close camera work and a smattering of punk tracks acting as a soundtrack to the lives of the German youths. The young cast make a good fist of their roles and Vogel is good as the teacher who mixes both pride and horror at the realisation of the success yet inherent evil of his project. For the German public there was no doubt a particular interest in this story suggesting that the revolution is just a t-shirt away. Other audiences may not get the same level of connection however the film is entertaining in its own right and definitely worth a watch. The Wave was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

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Transfer Quality


  The Wave was shot on 35mm film and projected cinematically at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The DVD keeps that aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

Madman Entertainment are usually good at sourcing transfers in the correct aspect ratio. If I have a quibble it is with the generic notice on the back of their DVD cases under Aspect Ratio : "Anamorphic Widescreen 16:9". Whilst this is invariably true it does not help a prospective buyer to work out whether the film is in the original aspect ratio or in a cropped form, most typically a standard widescreen 1.78:1 transfer.

Minor gripe aside, this is a good transfer of this recent film. There are no technical problems with the transfer. The lack of any significant extras has left a good deal of room on this dual layered DVD for the transfer. The colour palette tends towards the greens and blues with a distinctly cool tone but the fleshtones are well rendered and the transfer itself is reasonably sharp.

There is a light, consistent grain to the film.

The English subtitles, which are clear and easy to read are burned into the print.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The Wave features a single German Dolby Digital 2.0 Soundtrack which runs at 224 Kb/s.

A more expansive track would have been nice but this does the job adequately.

The dialogue can be heard clearly and appeared to be in perfect audio sync.

Music is both original and borrowed, the latter being an assortment of German an US/British punk stuff. It provides a nice sonic support for the events unfolding in the film.

There are no technical problems with the sound transfer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


There is only one real extra included with this DVD.

Cast Interview

It is an interview of about 15 minutes duration with the star Jurgen Vogel. Vogel is a good ambassador for the film - he understands the history of the material and the subtleties of the script. Particularly enlightening are his comments about the ending of the film. Vogel believes strongly that to have ended it in an historically accurate fashion would have been too lacking in drama to have driven home the message of the film and the experiment. Vogel speaks in eloquent English. There are no subtitles.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

  This is a Region 4 DVD.

 There is a Region 2 UK version which boasts the following features and extras:
German ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ),English ( Subtitles ),WIDESCREEN (2.35:1)
SPECIAL FEATURES: Alternative Footage, Deleted Scenes, Interactive Menu, Making Of, Music Video, Scene Access, Trailer(s)

I haven't been able to find any comment on the quality of the extras but for the English speaking audience that would seem to be the version to get if you really love the film.

My German isn't good but I believe the release in Region 2 Germany has the following features and extras: German Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, German Subtitles for the Hard of Hearing.
Extras: Making of (10 Min); Video Diary with Dennis Gansel (28 Min.); Teaser & Trailer for "Die Welle"; Audio Commentary with Jürgen Vogel


   The Wave is no masterpiece but it does make its point quite forcefully and retains interest throughout.

The DVD transfer is pretty good in visual terms and more than adequate in sonic terms.

Fans would have no doubt liked a bit more meat in the extras department.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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