Profile: Dennis Gansel

Profile: Dennis Gansel

Name: Dennis Gansel

Born: Hanover, Germany, 1973

Background: Gansel studied at Munich where he shot a couple of short films. After graduating he went on to make Phantom, a film for television about the Red Army Faction, the self-styled youthful freedom fighters that terrorised Germany for much of the 70s and called into question West Germany’s status as a Democratic country. He followed it with a youth film in a rather different direction. 2001’s Girls on Top was a teen sex comedy that was a huge success in Germany.

What’s he up to now? He is busy having another hit on his hands. The Wave managed 2.5 million admissions in Germany and he is hoping it does well internationally. Based on a 1967 experiment by Ron Jones, a teacher in the US, the film explores what happens when a high school teacher in today’s Germany instils stern values into his kids and watches as they turn into burgeoning obedient Nazis.

What he says about compliance: ‘The Nazis were very modern; they used the latest technology - cinema, science, radio - to manipulate the masses. Today they would use MySpace, popular music, Facebook. We wanted to show that there are many ways to create obedience in people. We wanted the clothes to be casual but uniform - white shirts and trainers. The dress sense might seem innocuous; but when someone doesn’t dress accordingly, it causes problems.’
What he says about his filmmaking style ‘In The Wave we wanted it to be very immediate. Though it is isn’t set anywhere specific, in other ways we wanted to make it very real. We paid a lot of attention to the dialogue the kids use. We wanted to draw the viewer into the youth movie aspect. We used lots of music and close up ands moving camera.’

Interesting fact: The central character’s teacher wife in The Wave is based on one of Gansel’s friends who ‘used to get so stressed and nervous before going into school she would take pills to cope.’

The Wave is on selected release from Fri 19 Sep.

The Wave

  • 3 stars
  • 2008
  • Germany
  • 1h 47min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Dennis Gansel
  • Cast: Jurgen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt

A slickly produced examination of how fascism can enter everyday life, 'The Wave' is a peer pressure teen drama where much of the heat comes from above, noticeably Vogel's high school teacher who wonders what will happen if he instils in the kids a few lessons from the Nazi past. Gansel doesn't dig too deep, but his…

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