I found I was gripped by The Wave while I was watching it. The film tells how a charismatic teacher does a project on autocracy with his class by beginning a movement called The Wave, and each day of the week the schoolkids are pulled further and further into this movement, which unites them in fraternity, while making them highly unfraternal to outsiders. It explores the idea that being in a political movement is like being part of a tribe or a gang. It’s safe there, you’re stronger together, social and religious differences don’t matter and even the pathetic loser can find a place for his geeky skills. The teenagers jump from level to level of misbehaviour under The Wave’s influence, from graffiti, to bullying non-members and onto serious violence. This was colourful lively stuff with tagging, skateboarding and upbeat music, and fairly drove along.
The message seemed to be, give people a uniform and a salute, and they’ll join. Never mind the ideology, here’s the movement. Of course that’s nonsense - a political movement wouldn’t last without something at its base, whether class or community. The Wave then was an experiment like observing animal behaviour in a zoo – where, of course, animals don’t behave naturally, as it’s a zoo.
It ended melodramatically with the teacher giving a Hitlerite speech, thus underlining in capitals and bold font that these cool hip German kids who are bored with the topic of Nazism can be sucked in to becoming fascists. There was no good at all in being a part of The Wave, which left a sense that any political movement is an evil thing since it leads to dangerous bonding and exclusiveness– but not all political bonds in this world are fascist bonds. There can be trade union bonds or environmentalist lobby bonds or whatever.
It was interesting though to see teenagers in a film about politics, which at least had one idea in its head, even if it was a crude one. I saw This is England, and I found it disappointing, because it gave no idea of why someone would join a right wing movement. Any arguments about the attractions of the ideology or the sense of union were fuzzed over with a bit of pointless psychologising.
I wonder though if British kids were given a uniform and a daft looking salute whether most of them wouldn’t be taking the piss, and The Wavers would be mocked as a bunch of weirdos, just another teenage tribe like Goths.