The Wave

The Wave

A scene from The Wave, a film by Dennis Gansel. Courtesy IFC Films. All rights reserved.

The Wave (2008/2011)

Also Known As: Die Welle

Opened: 05/27/2011 Limited

reRun Theater05/27/2011 - 06/02/20117 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Genre: German Drama (In German w/English subtitles)

Rated: Unrated


Germany today. During a project week, high school teacher Rainer Wenger (Jurgen Vogel) comes up with an experiment in order to explain to his students how totalitarian governments work. A role-playing game with tragic results begins. Within a few days, what began as harmless notions, like discipline and community, builds into a real movement: THE WAVE. By the third day, the students start ostracizing and threatening others.

When the conflict finally erupts into violence at an intramural water polo game, the teacher decides to break off the experiment. But it's too late. THE WAVE is out of control...


Morton Rhue's THE WAVE has been a classic youth novel for over 20 years, and is required reading material in many German schools. A work of fiction, but one based in fact: The original experiment was conducted by history teacher Ron Jones at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, CA in 1967. Jones served as consultant to the current production.

Together with top German producer Christian Becker ("Hui Buh -- The Goofy Ghost"), award winning German director Dennis Gansel (German Film Prize and Hamptons Int'l Audience Award for "Before the Fall") manages to update this based-on-a-truestory in a contemporary and credible way. The experiment's inventor, Ron Jones, whose short story served as the basis for the screenplay, joined in to help make this edgy project a reality.

Dennis Gansel developed the gripping story together with his friend and fellow director Peter Thorwarth ("Bang Boom Bang", "If It Don't Fit, Use a Bigger Hammer"). They made a point of setting the action in modern-day Germany, in a normal school in a regular town.

Shooting for THE WAVE took place in July and August of 2007 in and around Berlin. The film was supported by the Berlin-Brandenburg Media Board, as well as the Federal Film Board - FFA and DFFF.

The Experiment

In Fall of 1967, a history teacher at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, CA, named Ron Jones conducted an experiment in his class. During a lesson on the subject of National Socialism, one of his students asked a question the teacher couldn't answer: "How could the German populace claim ignorance of the slaughter of the Jewish people? How could the townspeople, railroad conductors, teachers, doctors, claim they knew nothing about the concentration camps and human carnage? How can people who were neighbors and maybe even friends of the Jewish citizen say they weren't there when it happened?"

On the spur of the moment, he decided to conduct a classroom experiment. He instituted a regimen of strict discipline in his class, restricting their freedom and forming them into a unit. The name of the movement was The Third Wave. Much to the teacher's astonishment, the students reacted enthusiastically to the obedience he demanded of them. The experiment, which was originally intended to last only a day, soon spread to the whole school. Dissenters were ostracized, members began spying on each other, and students who refused to join up were beaten up on. By day five, Ron Jones was forced to call off the experiment.

The Phenomenon of "Extreme Obedience"

Even today, the phenomenon of extreme obedience to authority such as during the Third Reich is not fully understood scientifically. A number of well-known experiments in the area of social psychology, however, have examined the behavior of individuals in a group situation and yielded disturbing results.

Among the most famous is the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, which examined human behavior under conditions of incarceration. The Milgram Experiment conducted in 1962 by psychologist Stanley Milgram studied the willingness of regular people to follow instructions from authority figures that go against their own conscience and convictions.

Philip Zimbardo, who conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment, has recently drawn parallels between his findings and the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.


"The subject didn't let go of me. I always wondered, Could that kind of thing still happen to us? In modern-day Germany, which is so liberal and enlightened, where we spend so much time talking about Nazism and the Third Reich? Would we still fall for it? That was a question I found so fascinating I wanted to look into it." --Dennis Gansel

The idea of updating THE WAVE as a theatrical feature set in Germany arose during a dinner among friends. Director Dennis Gansel mentioned that he found the events that took place at Cubberley High in Palo Alto in 1967 so fascinating he would like to adapt them for the big screen. "We never mentioned it again," recalls producer Christian Becker, "but I never forgot it. So I started looking in to obtaining the rights. At first I didn't even tell Dennis, because I didn't want him to be disappointed if it didn't work out."

The search led him clear across the world, from the German and U.S. publisher to the author of the classic youth novel THE WAVE, Morton Rhue, to Hollywood production companies and various agents. Finally, Becker and his Rat Pack production co. wound up at Sony, from whom he was able to obtain the rights with the help of top German producer Martin Moszkowicz of Constantin Film ("Resident Evil:Extinction, "The Perfume -- The Story of a Murderer", "The Downfall", "Nowhere in Africa"). Ron Jones, the inventor of the original experiment, was impressed by the German producer's resolve: "Christian is amazing. I mean, who would spend two years of his time and energy pursuing a dream? That's the kind of spunk we need! Countless American producers have wanted to do this story for years, and didn't get the rights... And so it takes people like Dennis Gansel and Peter Thorwarth to make this dream come true."

For Dennis Gansel and his old film school buddy Peter Thorwarth, whom he brought on board to help write the script, writing the screenplay became a trip back in time to their own high school days in Hanover and Unna, Germany. "We're trying to describe real-life characters. A Karo, a Jens or a Dennis -- those are characters that are very close to Peter Thorwarth or myself, or people we went to school with. Our aim was not to create cookie-cutter characters, but people who really exist." They received confirmation that they were on the right track from the man who was there: When Ron Jones visited the set in Summer of 2007 in Germany, he felt himself transported back to the year 1967: "Being here on the set and watching the actors is like watching ghosts from my past."

The filmmakers quickly agreed to set the story in a fictional town. Says Rat Pack producer Nina Maag: "We deliberately located the action in a fairly wholesome and intact environment, where people live comfortably and kids can grow up in an environment that is comparatively sheltered for our day and age."

The screenwriters decided against beginning the experiment with an outright discussion on the origins of Nazism, as it did in 1967 in Palo Alto. "The subject of Autocracy is basically just a subcategory of despotism," says Dennis Gansel. "Of course it eventually leads to a discussion of fascism. But a teacher who starts right out saying, 'Today we'll be discussing fascism' is already giving away a lot.

Calling it Autocracy sounds much more harmless to begin with, even if the social mechanisms are basically the same." Naturally, the screenwriters knew that National Socialism is a large and important topic in German schools. So they used that in the story: "When I went to school, the Nazis and the Third Reich were constantly coming up. In History, Political Science, Religion, Literature and even Biology. At some point, you get sick of it and you've heard enough. That can lead to a certain boredom or even arrogance -- 'We get it already, it won't happen again' -- and that's where I see the danger," says Peter Thorwarth.

It was clear to all involved that the story depended on the believability of the main character. The two filmmakers talked about who they would have liked to have as a teacher in high school -- and came up with German star Jurgen Vogel, who has made an impressive career of playing real-life, blue-collar, no-bullshit characters. When he signalized he'd do it, the role was tailored to fit him.

"We said it needs to be a very open and liberal teacher, whom students like and trust. Someone who winds up getting sucked into his own experiment. Ultimately the character became an aging rock and roller, just like Ron Jones, by the way. He refers to himself as an anarchist, which we didn't know going in," says Nina Maag. "Ron actually was a very liberal kind of teacher back then, and that's how we wrote our teacher: Someone who comes from a working class background, not some uptight headmaster type. Someone who coaches athletics, who banters easily with the kids and is on a firstname basis with them. Students like his classes and voluntarily sign up for a difficult topic because he's teaching it."

Christiane Paul was the perfect choice for his wife, "Anke Wenger": A character written to be selfassured and dynamic, but at the same time very warm and outgoing. When Paul got pregnant, the child was simply written into the script.

Casting the students was a long process. The filmmakers spent almost a year casting young actors until their class was complete. Some of the young male actors had to be able to give a credible performance playing water polo, as well. "I was looking for highly charismatic actors who could fill out their roles," says Dennis Gansel.

Shooting the water polo scenes turned out to be one of the greatest challenges of the shoot. Temperatures in summer in the indoor pool in Berlin-Reinickendorf easily climbed over 100 degrees. Add to that humidity of 80%, and the water polo games became a real workout for the entire cast and crew.

The punishing heat wave was followed by school angst for several cast and crew members: The lion's share of shooting took place in a real high school, which awakened a lot of memories for some: "It was very weird being in school all the time. I really felt I was back in class!" Cristina Do Rego recalls. Max Riemelt felt the same way: "Definitely! As soon as I sat down in the classroom, I started getting drowsy again. You totally fall back into your old rut. I started doodling again right away. That's what I always used to do. And the poor ventilation took care of the rest."

Perfect, thinks director Dennis Gansel: "I can still remember vividly what it was like to sit in school when you're 17, how it was with the teachers and how it was to go on class trips. Who you had a crush on and who you were feuding with, and the friendships... Rarely have I lived life as intensely as in High School. Christian, Peter and I wanted to recapture that feeling. The more real and believable, the better. That's what we wanted to get up there on screen."

Dennis Gansel and his cinematographer Torsten Breuer tried to visually capture the feeling of being part of the class, part of the experiment. "I felt like I was in the classroom myself, as if I was a part of it rather than watching the whole thing from the outside," is how Ron Jones described his reaction after watching the first excerpts of the film.

Searching for the right location, the filmmakers and set designer Knut Loewe scouted dozens of schools in and around Berlin. They were looking for a modern, appealing high school. They finally found what they were looking for outside of Berlin in Dallgow-Doberitz in the state of Brandenburg, where the Marie Curie Gymnasium turned out to be the perfect location for THE WAVE. Many of the school's students were thrilled to spend their summer in a kind of voluntary summer school as extras for the film. For visitors to the set, the actors and the extras soon blended into an indistinguishable "sea of students." A sure sign for Nina Maag that costume designer Ivana Milos was the right pick: "We didn't want to make one of those movies where the 17-year-olds look like grown-ups imagine they do. We wanted them to look they way kids today really dress." To get that effect, they visited numerous high schools beforehand as fashion scouts.

The last scene was shot after 38 days of filming, from July to August of 2007. "The shoot went incredibly well -- even though the film was a fairly big production, and we spent so much effort on casting and location scouting, and put so much thought into it," Christian Becker concludes. "We had a great time. The team was terrific, it was a lot of fun. We were like a big family. I think you can see from the finished film that it was fun to make and the result is very organic and natural -- in front of the camera, and behind it. That makes the story seem very realistic."

Interview with Dennis Gansel (Screenwriter and Director)

After making BEFORE THE FALL, you return to the subject of Nazi Germany in THE WAVE. Is it a coincidence or your personal hobby horse?

I have always been very interested in this subject! The question of whether fascism could happen again, how the fascist system works, how people can be led astray, holds a lot of fascination for me. I guess it has to do with my own family history. My grandfather was an officer during the Third Reich, a fact which my father and both my uncles had a lot of problems with. As a young man I often asked myself how I would have behaved in that situation. In BEFORE THE FALL, I dealt with the question, "How was it back then? How did the Nazis lead people astray?" In THE WAVE, the question is "How could we be led astray today? How could fascism work? Would it be possible today? Could that kind of thing happen again, at a normal German school, here and now?"

What was it about the experiment THE THIRD WAVE that fascinated you so much you wanted to make a movie about it?

I vividly recall the first time I read the novel THE WAVE. The first question you ask yourself when reading it, of course, is "What would I have done? Would I have gone along with it?" Of course you tell yourself, well, that was a long time ago, in the 1960s in the USA, maybe that was an issue then. But nowadays in Germany, no way. But I think there's more to it than that. That was the starting point for us to say, let's have it take place in modern-day Germany, and examine the question "Could it happen again?"

How did you research the story?

Well, we had Ron Jones' original notes, or course. So we knew fairly well how the experiment went. But once we had decided to relocate the story to present-day Germany, that meant reimagining it as a German story, in a specifically German setting. Since we both grew up in similar environments, we said, let's have it take place at the kind of school we went to. There are characters in the movie that I went to school with, that Peter Thorwarth went to school with. There are teachers that we would have liked to have, and ones we actually did have. Retaining that real-world angle was a big help. Then we developed the story based on those characters. The way we imagined them, what they would do in certain situations, so things would develop naturally from there.

Would you say the success of the experiment depends on the popularity and acceptance of the teacher?

Of course it helps to have a highly charismatic personality as the teacher. Someone who's a real leader, with real leadership qualities, who can persuade people, whom the students admire. I believe that the fascist system he constructs is so nefarious psychologically that it can happen again anywhere and any time. Give people who didn't have any say before their own little area of responsibility, all of a sudden. Form a community, which suddenly gives the student body a whole new quality. Let the great differences that used to divide the student body be eliminated, giving everyone the chance to distinguish him- or herself. I think that's something that would work anywhere. Especially in something like a school system. And anyone who goes to high school knows what it's like: The popular kids, the social leaders, are at the top of the pecking order. And a lot of students who may be more shy or that you don't notice at first glance just don't get a shot. I'm convinced that if you took a system like that and stood it on its head over night -- that that would definitely work again.

Our modern society is defined by individualism. Is the need to stick out from the crowd what makes an experiment like THE WAVE possible?

When I was young, I always wished I had something I could identify with. I envied my parents for the '60s student movement, who had some sort of common goal, trying to really change the world and make a difference. I grew up in the '80s and '90s, when there were a thousand political movements and groups, but no real direction. Nothing you could really get excited about. That's something I really missed. I think kids today feel the same way. I mean, we can't just define ourselves solely through music and clothing. I think people have a deep need for substance, a need which is growing ever stronger. The trend towards individualism and a complete atomization of society into tiny groups can't go on forever. At some point there will be a huge vacuum. At then the danger is that some Ism will pop up to try and fill that void.

Ron Jones is thrilled with THE WAVE. What does that mean to you?

Of course that means a great deal to us. For us, he's the staring point, the inventor of the original experiment. Most of the story is based on his experiences. It was almost creepy in some ways. We decided to have Rainer (Jurgen Vogel) and his wife (Christiane Paul) live on a house boat, to have his wife be a teacher, too, and have them get into conflict. And when I showed Ron Jones the first footage in the editing room, he said: "That's amazing. I lived in a tree house and I had this and this conversation with my wife, which is just like the one in the film!" We had no way of knowing that, we just wrote those scenes intuitively. Writing the script, we came up with scenes which just happened to correspond with what really happened to Ron Jones in the late '60s. That was amazing for us, of course, because, even though we are making a fictional film, we are always trying to be as realistic and believable as possible in the characters, in what goes on psychologically. So to have Ron Jones say he believes the story 100 percent is the greatest praise we could hope for.

Interview with Christian Becker

THE WAVE is a joint project among friends: Dennis Gansel directed, and wrote the screenplay with Peter Thorwarth. You produced it with your company Rat Pack and Nina Maag also producing. You all went to film school together. How did this school reunion come about? Dennis and I came up with the idea for THE WAVE a few years ago. I spent a long time trying to track down the rights to the story, all over the world. Meanwhile, Dennis delved into the subject matter. We took Peter Thorwarth on board to get another perspective on things. All three of us went to Munich Film School. I produced "Bang Boom Bang," "If It Don't Fit, Use a Bigger Hammer" and "Goldene Zeiten" with Peter, and "The Phantom" with Dennis, together with Nina Maag as Producer. The beauty of it was that we're all friends and that's how I always imagined my company. We're not called Rat Pack for nothing: We're all friends working together, partying together and growing together. Peter Thorwarth is proud to have Dennis making this film and to have worked on the script with Dennis. Peter is from the Ruhr coal and steel region, his themes are usually more blue-collar, working-class stuff. Action and comedy. Dennis does the big, serious films. There's always a personal side and a professional angle. And it's great to see how that can gel, without personal ego problems.

Ron Jones never identified with Morton Rhue's novel. What was it that convinced him of your approach?

We tell the story from multiple perspectives. That's a much more modern, contemporary approach. That's what Ron Jones liked the most. He said he's glad to see Germans making this movie, who have such historical responsibility and even guilt. He says he's relieved that Hollywood didn't get the movie rights.

The experiment took place in 1967 at Cubberley High in Palo Alto. Why did you decide to set the action in Germany?

We always wanted to locate the film in Germany, to speak to young people in modern Germany. We wanted them to be able to relate to it. To give them the feeling, "Hey, I recognize that, that's just like me, I know guys like that." If the story had taken place in the past, or in the United States, then it wouldn't have been as immediate and believable. Another crucial point is that we never show where the action is taking place. We don't appeal to any German regional cliches -- "Berlin is a social powder keg anyway" or, had we chosen Bavaria, "They're all redneck hicks down there." Every city, every state has its own prejudices associated with it, that's the reason THE WAVE takes place nowhere in particular. I wanted very much to make sure the story speaks to everyone. So everyone who goes to see it has that feeling, "Jeez, that could happen to me, too."

You assembled a remarkable line-up of young actors to perform alongside the old pros Jurgen Vogel and Christiane Paul. How would you characterize the young cast?

We spent an incredibly long time casting out in the field. We went though all the agencies and held innumerable casting calls. The result was an extraordinary cast - the cream of the crop of young German acting talent. Everyone who's seen it says "It's all so realistic, just like where I went to school." That's what makes this film so unique. We took a lot of time and Dennis did everything possible to find the perfect cast. I think our actors are not just incredibly hip, but they also fit their roles perfectly. It's just a pleasure to watch them!

What can you tell us about the score?

In addition to the current pop and rock tunes, we have an ideal score: Very quiet and subtle, and then fast and powerful. What Heiko Maile did is really amazing. Heiko Maile was a member of German synth pop band Camouflage. I was a big fan of Camouflage when I was young, from "Great Commandment" to "Love Is A Shield." The music he composed for us adds a whole new level to the story. It's modern, it's energetic, but it also has a lot of classic film score elements. Heiko, Dennis and I had a great time working together.

THE WAVE is being screened in competition at Sundance in January. Is that a dream come true for you?

You bet! We wanted so much to take the film to Sundance, and still it was a huge surprise for us to be accepted. Only 16 films out of 620 were accepted. The United States is still the most important movie market for filmmakers, and Sundance is one of the top A-list festivals, where all eyes are on you. Since the announcement, we've been getting calls from all over the world. We never stopped believing in this extraordinary film. So it's very rewarding to see that other people do, as well.

Interview with Ron Jones

What is it like for you being on the set of THE WAVE?

One of the stunning feelings of being here on set right now and watching a group of students is seeing ghosts. I am seeing the actual students, so I am back in 1967 and there is Doug fooling around, and there is the class comedian Steve, these two women sitting upfront, Aline Lavin and Wendy, who are so bright and wonderful, and there is Norman sitting in the back row with his gold tooth smile, and Jerry. I am seeing this strange reminder of that similar class.

What was your reaction to the first footage?

Well, the first observation of seeing the rushes was that the photography is like being in the classroom instead of observing it from a distance, I am a part of it. And then there is the universal quality of seeing all the people that seemed familiar to me and I understand quite well. But the film was doing something else that I didn't understand, I have never written about it, but for instance there is a dynamics between the younger teachers and the older teachers. There are more ways of performing the teaching and more new ways, and that existed in the school where I was teaching and it probably exists in every school, that's called The Wave in your film.

And another quality in the movie that I have never written about is the dynamics between a man and a woman that are married for a long time. My wife and I have been together 43 years and the little subtle signs we send each other and the little breaking mechanisms, you know, hey, you are going to far or stop, you are beginning to hurt, that mechanism happened in the Wave. My wife basically said, you have gone to far, it's dangerous to you and the people around you and that's captured in this version of The Wave. So it's beautifully unique, it's the heart speaking, its not the mind telling you a story, it's the glory of this wonderful children that are like flowers in our lives and what happens when they come into your lives and what happens when a teacher goes a little bit too far and becomes a dictator.

What do you think of what happened, looking back? Are you grateful for the experience?

Well, I would never do it again. Its something you would never do, put children in danger. Grateful? I stumbled upon a bit of human nature in our psyche that might be useful. Therefore I am grateful to that effect and that a movie might be made and people might talk about it and study it. You know, German culture is unique. You are the only ones I know that are really concerned about violence. You study it, because you don't want to repeat it.

Whereas in my culture things have happened, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, our guilt is just thrown away, we are not concerned. We are not studying racism, we are not studying violence. You are unique. I don't know anyone else that is so concerned. But once again, you are looking at The Wave trying to understand why do we give up our freedom for the thought of being better than anyone else. That's a lesson that we all need to see and hear and talk about.

What were your feelings and emotions during the experiment?

The experiment took place in one way, I discovered how to teach really well, because people were learning rapidly. I kept going home to my wife saying Diana, they are really learning, this is crazy, they used to have little stations when we used to have freedom in the classroom and now they are rigid, they answer every question and everyone seems to be helping everyone else, I have stumbled across this great way of teaching. Of course the consequence was damaging to all. So my emotions were like a rollercoaster.

How did your wife react to the experiment?

My wife was teaching at that school at the same time, at the elementary school level. And we were young teachers, both of us full of ideas and energy. She was aware of what's going on and she was the one that fortunately, maybe it's women that will save our destiny in life, because she was the one that said this is not good. It's not good for you, because you don't know where you going and you are hurting other people and this is not what you believe, this is not democracy. This is dangerous. So she was the one that tilted me back in some form of reality and forced me to stop The Wave. So everyone should have a good wife or women around him to say: Hey, no more.

When did you realize you went too far?

The exact moment I knew that I had gone too far was when Robert followed me into the faculty room. I didn't anticipate this and here he was in the faculty room and that other teacher, Bonnie, the head of the English department, very similar character in the movie, glasses dropped off his nose and he looked at this Robert and said, Robert you don't belong here, this is the faculty room, this is for faculty only. And Robert looked at Bonnie and said: I am not a student, I am a body guard. And I knew that he had crossed over some invisible line, what was a simulation had become something real. And I realized I was crossing over that same line. I was no longer just teaching about this thing called fascism. I was enjoying being a leader, and that was frightening.

Did the Third Wave work because you were popular as a teacher?

No, no. the experiment worked, because most of us were lost, don't have a family, don't have a community, don't have a feeling of belonging, and there happened to be a young teacher saying, I can give that to you.

So the experiment could work today?

Oh, it is working nowadays, in every school. People always ask, do you think the Wave could take place today? Hey, go to your local school. Where is democracy? We always talk about democracy, you are not experiencing it. You are not deciding what books to read or what themes to pursue or how to help one another to become better citizens. You are not working on these ideas. You follow your curriculum and someone says it is the correct curriculum or you are testing so you get some place else, it's all control. But you don't have control, someone else has control.

What were the consequences for you?

Not because of the Wave, but because of fighting for civil rights and stopping the war in Vietnam, I was dismissed from that school three years after The Wave experiment, and I was never allowed to teach again in public high schools, so my life took a great change I hadn't anticipated, I wanted simply to be a great history teacher and a basketball coach, and raise my family and that would be wonderful. That was not allowed. But as a consequence it forced me to find different places to teach so I have taught for the most part of the last 30 years for the mentally disabled.

What do you think of the filmmakers Dennis Gansel, Peter Thorwarth and Christian Becker?

It's really fascinating! Dennis and I have communicated in letter form and it was delightful. He has honored and respected me by sending his script, he wasn't afraid, and there has been this exchange of letters about what goes on in the classroom, what do we observe and how do we trust each other, and so it was like meeting an old brother with Dennis particularly, because we had been writing back and forth, with Peter it was the same way. I mean we as writers we know that we are on a peculiar tilting world, and trying to understand it. And sometimes we get a little of it, sometimes we get more of it, but we are always trying to find it, what is the heart, what is life, how do we make it better. And we are on the same pursuit. So it's like being brothers together for a moment.

Well, Christian is a producer, he is a different animal. Producers are these wild source that bring us all together for a moment, they are very valuable. He is fascinating, just because he has the energy and the capacity to spend two years to talk to Sony, who else would spend two years chasing a dream? So he is a dream chaser, and we need that, and then we need the Peters and Dennises to make the dream come true.

Interview with Jurgen Vogel

During the experiment, Ron Jones noticed a deep need for conformity in his students. Does that still apply to our modern, egotistical society?

I think belonging to some sort of group is still very important nowadays. Especially in a time when familes are falling apart, where the traditional extended family with grandparents, mothers, fathers, children, grandchildren, uncles and aunts, has ceased to exist, we have a deep need to belong. Not in order to sacrifice your individuality, but in order to try to find someone with whom you can identify. For whom you're willing to park your ego on the back seat. You can really get involved with Greenpeace, for example. They have that: Unique individuals with their own personalities, but still the feeling of being part of someting bigger than yourself. I think that's a basic human need. It can also be abused, of course. But fundamentally, it's not a bad thing.

How did the experiment go from Rainer's point of view?

It takes on a life of its own. First it's just about summoning team spirit. That's something everyone's familiar with from sports. The question is, once you get people to accept discipline and hierarchy, what do you do with it? How do you use this system? You can go in different directions. You can swing left, you can swing right. But ultimately, it's always manipulation and abuse of power, that's what makes it dangerous, no matter what the ideology behind it. To begin with, Rainer doesn't really have any ideology at all, except for valuing team spirit. But what happens then is beyond Rainer's control.

Did you ever ask yourself what you would have done in an experiment like THE WAVE?

I'm convinced an exepriment like THE WAVE could happen to anybody, anywhere. So I didn't really ask myself how I would have behaved. We've seen it often enough, and it can work on so many levels: Mass manipulation, the way groups react to each other, what has to be done to get rid of troublemakers, or maybe reintegrate them or isolate them.

The original teacher, Ron Jones, found similarites between you and himself. Do you agree?

Ron Jones is a great guy, who's done some amazing things in his life. For example, I think it's remarkable he's still playing punk music. So I'm flattered if he thinks I'm like him.

Cast Biographies

Jurgen Vogel (Rainer Wenger)

Jurgen Vogel was born 1968 in Hamburg. He had his acting debut when he was 16 as a homeless kid in the TV drama KINDER AUS STEIN ("Stone Children"). He went to acting school 1986 -- for exactly one day. It was too dry, too theoretical. He's a handon guy. Instead, Jurgen Vogel moved to Berlin.

After taking odd jobs and acting small film and TV parts, he received the Bavarian Film Prize as best actor for ROSAMUNDE in 1990.

His breakout success came with his portrayal of a working-class stiff who stumbles into acting school auditions carrying furniture, and is accepted to apply for an elite drama school, in Sonke Wortmann's debut hit KLEINE HAIE (ACTING IT OUT, 1991). Over night, Jurgen Vogel became A-list talent, specializing in playing the regular blue collar Joe. It's the underdogs, the outsiders, the rebels and bad guys who became his trademark. The audience and the critics alike admire his courage and honesty in his portrayals.

In 2004, Jurgen Vogel co-founded the Hansen Band for the semi-documentary music film KEINE LIEDER UBER LIEBE ("No Songs about Love"), together with Thees Uhlmann of "Tomte," Max Schroder and Marcus Wiebusch of "Kettcar," and Felix Gebhard of "Olli Schulz und der Hund Marie."

In 2006, Jurgen Vogel became official sponsor of the annual music festival "Aufmucken." ("Acting Up"). Organized by young people from the Schulzendorf region near Berlin, the goal of the festival is to take a stand for tolerance and openness.

Among Jurgen Vogel's numerous awards are the Bavarian Film Prize for ROSAMUNDE 1989, KLEINE HAIE 1992 and EMMA'S BLISS 2007. In 1997, he received the German Film Prize for LIFE IS ALL YOU GET. He won the Adolf Grimme-Prize in 2001 and the Golden Camera 2003 for his career. His tour de force as a compulsive rapist in THE FREE WILL won him the Silver Bear in Berlin 2006, as well as Best Actor at the Tribeca and Chicago Film Festivals. In 2007, he received the Ernst-Lubitsch- Prize for A FRIEND OF MINE and WHERE IS FRED?

Christiane Paul (Anke Wenger)

Christiane Paul was born 1974 in Pankow, East Berlin. After high school, she studied medicine, earning her M.D. in 2002. She worked as an actress on the side and briefly attended the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York.

After working as a model, Christiane Paul's first film role was a leading lady, in DEUTSCHFIEBER 1991. Next she played across from star Gotz George in ICH UND CHRISTINE. Her many subsequent roles were carefully chosen for their quality. She acted across from Jurgen Vogel in Wolfgang Becker's LIFE IS ALL YOU GET.

In 2004, she finally quit practicing medicine to work full-time as an actress. That year she also acted on stage in DER AUFTRAG, directed by Ulrich Muhe, in the Berlin Festival House.

Christiane Paul is an ambassador for the World AIDS Campaigns 2005 and 2007 in Germany, and supports the campaign "Your Voice Against Poverty."

Christiane Paul received the Max Ophuls-Prize 1994 for her performance in EX, and the Bavarian Film Prize 1995 for WORKAHOLIC. In 1998, she received a Golden Camera as Best Newcomer, and Berliner Zeitung newspaper awarded Christiane Paul its cultural award 1999 for artistic achievement.

Crew Biographies

Dennis Gansel (Screenwriter and Director)

"Dennis isn't just the director I made my first film with, but the great thing is he always knows exactly what he's doing on the set. That's a great thing. I trust him implicitly. For me, he's not just a visionary, but a true friend." -- Christian Becker on Dennis Gansel

Dennis Gansel was born 1973 in Hanover. While at Munich Film School, he shot the short films THE WRONG TRIP und LIVING DEAD 1995 and 1996. Both were produced by his fellow student Christian Becker and won the F. W. Murnau Short Film Prize. He followed them up with another short 1998, IM AUFTRAG DES HERREN ("A Mission from God").

After graduating from film school, Dennis Gansel shot his debut film, THE PHANTOM, a political thriller about the Red Army Faction, also starring Jurgen Vogel and produced by Christian Becker, which went on to win a Jupiter Award, the Adolf Grimme Prize and the 3SAT Audience Award in 2000 for Best TV Movie.

2001 saw his theatrical debut with teen sex comedy GIRLS ON TOP, which was a breakout commercial success and launched several young careers, including Karoline Herfurth's (PERFUME). Dennis went on to pen the script for NAPOLA (BEFORE THE FALL) together with Maggie Peren. In 2003, their script about an elite Nazi boarding academy won a Federal Film Prize as Best Unproduced Script. The intense drama was released theatrically in 2004. BEFORE THE FALL won the audience award at the Hamptons Film Festival in New York, Best Film at Viareggio European Film Festival, and a Bavarian Film Prize 2005 for Best Direction. Lead actor Max Riemelt ("Marco") won Best Actor at Kalovy Vary International Film Festival for his performance in BEFORE THE FALL.

Peter Thorwarth (Co-script)

"Peter and I share not only our heritage in the Ruhr region, but also the same taste in movies. I'm very proud of the fact that two directors like Peter and Dennis could write this script together without any sort of head trip. With THE WAVE, we went back to the way we worked at film school: Working together as friends and growing together." -- Christian Becker on Peter Thorwarth

Peter Thorwarth was born 1971 in Dortmund, and grew up in Unna, on the edge of the Ruhr region. He started shooting his first movies on Super 8 and Video as a teenager.

He enrolled at Munich Film School 1994, in the same year as fellow directing student Dennis Gansel and producer Christian Becker, who produced his first short film, the 15 minute construction worker comedy IF IT DON'T FIT, USE A BIGGER HAMMER, which was nominated for the Student Academy Awards® and won the German Short Film Prize 1996. Naturally, they kept on working together. In 1997, they staged a wild romp of an action comedy with their second short called MAFIA PIZZA RAZZIA, before starting work on Peter's theatrical debut BANG BOOM BANG a year later. The runaway commercial and critical hit has been running without interruption since 1999 in a theater in Bochum, which probably makes it one of the few films to truly deserve to be called a "cult film." It is also the first part of Peter Thorwarth's "Unna Trilogy," which he continued in 2002 with a feature-length version of IF IT DON'T FIT, USE A BIGGER HAMMER, (which spun off a successful TV sitcom series) and completed in 2006 with GOLDENE ZEITEN, also produced by Christian Becker.

Peter Thorwarth has shot several commercials and music videos, including for Germany's longest-serving punk band Die Toten Hosen, for which he won a Comet Award 2002.

Christian Becker (Producer)

"Christian is a maniac cinephile. That's the kind of producer you need. A producer's job is hard work. And young, ambitious producers are always in short supply. Someone like Christian is of inestimable value to a director and crew. If we had ten more producers like him, German cinema would be a whole different ball game, I guarantee it." --Dennis Gansel on Christian Becker

Christian Becker, born 1972 in Krefeld, began studying at Munich Film School after many years of experience in the film industry. At film school, he produced over 15 short films, commercials and numerous documentaries, including Dennis Gansel's first short films WRONG TRIP and LIVING DEAD, and their friend and fellow student Peter Thorwarth's IF IT DON'T FIT, USE A BIGGER HAMMER and MAFIA, PIZZA, RAZZIA. He also produced senior thesis films like DER GROSSE LACHER by Benjamin Herrmann or Florian Gallenberger's Oscar®-winning QUIERO SER. No student in the history of Munich Film School has had more producer's credits than Christian Becker.

In 1997, Becker founded the Indigo and Becker & Haberle production shingles together with partner Thomas Haberle, whose projects included Gansel's PHANTOM or Thorwarth's theatrical features BANG BOOM BANG and IF IT DON'T FIT, USE A BIGGER HAMMER. After projects like KANAK ATTACK and 7 DAYS TO LIVE, Becker had become one of Germany's Top 10 producers by the year 2000. In August 2000, Becker and Haberle brought their production labels together under the name of F.A.M.E. AG, which went public on Germany's Neuer Markt stock exchange.

In 2001, Becker left Indigo and Becker & Haberle to ally with leading German production house Constantin Film AG, founding Rat Pack Filmproduktion and Westside Filmproduktion together with his team. Becker continued to produce successful TV and theatrical titles, such as TV event movie "The Hunt for the Hidden Relic", two seasons of "If It Don't Fit, Use A Bigger Hammer - The Series", "Scratch: The New Sound of Terror" and "Code of the Templars." He also produced comedian Helge Schneider's music film JAZZ CLUB -- THE EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM, and Hammer-style thriller parody DER WIXXER, which spent nine weeks in the German theatrical Top 10, selling a total of 1.9 million tickets at the box office. He also produced Peter Thorwarth's GOLDENE ZEITEN (2004) and HUI BUH -- THE GOOFY GHOST (2005), directed by Sebastian Niemann. Sequel NEUES VOM WIXXER was shot in 2006 with an all-star cast and released theatrically in March of 2007.

Nina Maag (Creative Producer)

"With her way with people, Nina manages to keep everybody happy even when things start getting crazy. Besides her creativity, that's what I enjoy most about working with her!" -- Dennis Gansel on Nina Maag

"Nina has been my comrade-in-arms and friend for years, ever since film school days. Not only is she 100 percent reliable, and exudes an amazing sense of poise, she also helped shape the project decisively with her amazing ideas during development and casting." Christian Becker on Nina Maag As producer, Nina Maag mainly handled creative development on the production. Born in 1972 in Munich, she met Christian Becker, Dennis Gansel and Peter Thorwarth attending Munich Film School. She has worked for Becker as a producer since 2000, first for the Becker & Haberle shingle, including on director Dennis Gansel's multiple prize-winner THE PHANTOM. She went on to produce TV movie A FINE ROMANCE (2001) and documentary MOTHER'S DAY (2003).

After having her first child, Nina Maag returned to her production duties in 2004, this time for Rat Pack Filmproduktion, producing multiple award-winning TV movie MEINE VERRUCKTE TURKISCHE HOCHZEIT, and the telenovela LOTTA IN LOVE.

Martin Moszkowicz (Co-Producer)

"We never would have been able to make this movie without Martin. He was immediately excited about the idea. He helped me when we ran into obstacles obtaining the rights, and supported me with his incredible experience on every stage of the way -- whether it was financing, story development or world sales. I'm extremely grateful to him." --Christian Becker on Martin Moszkowicz

Born 1958, Martin Moszkowicz attended Munich University until 1980 before working as line producer, production manager and producer on film productions worldwide. In 1985, he became producer and managing director of M+P Film, Munich. In 1991, he joined top Germany production house Constantin Film as producer, and became managing director in 1996 until the company's IPO 1999. Since then, he has served on the board of Constantin Film AG, supervising film production activities.

Martin Moszkowicz has served as producer, executive producer, co-producer or managing director on well over 100 German and international theatrical films.

Torsten Breuer (Director of Photography)

THE WAVE is Torsten Breuer's second film with director Dennis Gansel after shooting award-winning Nazi drama BEFORE THE FALL together in 2004.

Breuer has shot several theatrical features, including PUNKTCHEN UND ANTON (ANNALUISE AND ANTON, 1998), BANDITS (1997) or ABGESCHMINKT! (MAKING UP!, 1992). Breuer has also shot several episodes of TV cop show "Kommissarin Lucas" for Olga Film, as well as TV movies like "Liebe Amelie" (2005), "Operation Rubikon" (2002, two-parter), "Ein unmoglicher Mann" (2000, miniseries) or "Rendezvous mit dem Teufel" (1999).

Torsten Breuer doesn't only compose images, but also music, and wrote scores for award-winning German films like Alone Among Women (1991), Acting Up (1992), Maybe... Maybe Not (1994), Und Morgen Fangt Das Leben An (Tv, 1996), Zur Zeit Zu Zweit (Tv, 1997) And Blind Date -- Ein Flirt Mit Folgen (Tv, 1997).

Ueli Christen (Editor)

Top German directors Sonke Wortmann and Rainer Kaufmann rely on Ueli Christen to edit their big productions. A very brief selection of his filmography includes Acting Up (1992), Maybe... Maybe Not (1994), The Superwife (1996), The Pharmacist (1997), Der Campus (1998), Long Hello And Short Goodbye (1999), Kalt Ist Der Abendhauch (2000), Anatomy (2000), Knallharte Jungs (2002), Miracle Of Bern (2003), Die Kirschenkonigin (2004), Der Schatz Der Weissen Falken (2005), Vier Tochter (2006), Die Drei (2007).

Rat Pack Filmproduktion (Production company)

RAT PACK FILMPRODUKTION is a production house that serves theatrical audiences as well as producing TV movies and international TV event films.

Founder and managing director Christian Becker has been able to rely on a potent network of contacts to upcoming directing and writing talent ever since film school. As former partner and managing director of INDIGO FILMPRODUKTION and BECKER & HABERLE FILMPRODUKTION, he cultivated and expanded this network over the past seven years, assembling a highly motivated creative team of film lovers.

With their F.A.M.E. FILM & MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT AG, Christian Becker and Thomas Haberle merged their labels with Curt Cress (Artforce music publishing) and Michael Bischoff (mb Medienvertrieb distrib) and took the company public on Germany's booming Neuer Markt stock exchange in Frankfurt in August 2000. Subsequently, Becker and his old INDIGO team went on to found RAT PACK FILMPRODUKTION and WESTSIDE FILMPRODUKTION together with CONSTANTIN FILM in winter of 2001.

Co-founder and managing director Anita Schneider serves as financial director. She looks back on years of experience in the industry, working for companies like Bavaria Film, ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG and Indigo Film/F.A.M.E. AG, where she served in accounting and controlling departments.

The third managing director is Gero Worstbrock, who has served as assistant director and legal counsel for Constantin Film AG for years, and now also assists Rat Pack with his wide-ranging experience in national and international film financing.

Counting Indigo Filmproduktion and Becker & Haberle Filmproduktion, the RAT PACK team has produced 14 theatrical and TV movies, including "Bang Boom Bang", "Our Island in the South Pacific" "Kanak Attack", "Revenge of the Rats", "If It Don't Fit...", "7 Days To Live" or "The Phantom", garnering awards like the VFF Producers' Prize, the prestigious Grimme Prize, the Cinema Jupiter and the 3Sat Audience Award.

The runaway box office hit (2.2 million tickets sold) "Hui Buh, The Goofy Ghost" (Dir.: Sebastian Niemann), an adaptation of a children's storyteller series for the screen, is currently doing well as a DVD, as is the second season of gut-busting fairy tale parody series "Die ProSieben Marchenstunde", the multiple-award-winning TV movie "Meine verruckte turkische Hochzeit" (Dir.: Stefan Holtz) and the sequel "Neues vom WiXXer" (Dir.: Cyrill Boss & Philipp Stennert), which, together with its first installment "Der WiXXer" sold more than 3 million tickets at German box offices.

Other select RAT PACK-Productions (including subsid WESTSIDE FILM, Krefeld) include TV event movie "Code of the Templars" and "The Hunt for the Hidden Relic", "Kubaner kussen besser", "Goldene Zeiten", Helge Schneider's "Jazzclub", "Ich bin ein Berliner", "Alles Geturkt", "Vollgas - Gebremst wird spater", theatrical co-production "French for Beginners" or sequel "Scratch: The New Sound of Terror". The RAT PACK team also produced the Grimme Prize-winning TV series "Kalkofes Mattscheibe," sitcom series "Was nicht passt, wird passend gemacht" and the telenovela "Lotta in Love" for ProSieben.

RAT PACK has strong creative ties to directors who are young, but also highly talented and experienced, such as Peter Thorwarth ("Bang Boom Bang"; "Goldene Zeiten"), Sebastian Niemann ("Das Jesus Video", "Hui Buh -- Das Schlossgespenst"), Dennis Gansel ("Das Phantom", "Napola") or directing team Boss & Stennert ("Neues vom WiXXer").

In this creative pool, which is supervised by producers Nina Maag, Lena Olbrich and Mathias Losel, assisted by line producers Patty Barth, Peter Schiller and Sofie Scherz permanent brainstorming leads to a constant output of ideas, which can be developed in-house with short lines of communication.

In spite of their relatively young age, the key players in this pool have known each other for many years already, working together in flexible teams without ego clashes, and thus can quickly arrive at professionally developed, ready-to-shoot projects.

The backing by top German production house Constantin Film serves as further support for their style of working.

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