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Power of the Individual Die Welle Pleasantville

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The conflict between individuality and community has been on going, and perpetually changing for as long as humans have had able-minds to process thoughts, personal desires, and beliefs. These two terms are social constructs that categorize people and how they interact with one another — more importantly how they, themselves, ideologically view the world. According to Webster’s Dictionary the definition of An individual is a single human considered apart from a society or community and community is a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests, and perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists. The films Pleasantville and Die Welle show the power struggle and repercussions that face community as a whole. In both films, individuals catalyst a change throughout the community, that in turn, ends with overwhelmingly negative consequences.

The movie Pleasantville depicts a lifestyle where individuality is non-existent, and the cliché status quo of the 1954 nuclear society is preached, and epitomized. The streets all lead to the same place, the books all tell the same story, and each and every roll is carried out exactly the same way. The community of Pleasantville is completely secluded from the rest of the world, and only when a foreign influence, is magically placed in the center of it all, does the world begin to spin. David and Jenni are that foreign influence – it is their individual nature that challenges the community,

Die Welle is a modern day depiction of what can happen when a powerful and manipulative person uses his knowledge and ability to control a community of individuals. Rainer Wegner, a high school professor, uses an experiment in the classroom to show the positives and negatives of an autocratic government — mimicking the fascist ideologies that governed their country sixty years prior. The students all believe that as a modern day intellectual society, a community of students conscious of their past, that it is impossible to ever allow themselves to be governed or be lead by someone that would disregard and relinquish their individuality and human rights.

The primary difference between these two films is, in Pleasantville the individual is brought into the community and is the impetus for the changes that take place. However Die Welle, there is a community of individuals that all strongly believe in distintness, yet through the power of an individual, their belief system gets manipulated and they become a community of followers.

David and Jenni upon arriving in Pleasantville inadvertently spark the individualization of the entire community just by being themselves within the bodies of Bud and Mary Sue. David is conscious of the community standards and the status quo and attempts to hinder Jenni from upsetting the norm, because he knows her natural _persona_ will plant a seed that will one by one change the community in ways they could never imagine. Mr. Johnson’s soda shop is the “tree of knowledge” inside the gates of Pleasantville. Everyday, throngs of eager teenage minds, come in, pluck the fruit, sit down in their booths, and eat it, further distancing themselves from the community they know – and embracing the world of knowledge and individuality that they can’t seem to get enough of.

David has a personal quandary on screen regarding how to behave – whether upholding the community standard is the priority, or to be the individual and enlighten the members of Pleasantville. In the early part of the film he explains to Mr. Johnson that he has permission to go about business at the soda shop whether David is present or not. This simple piece of knowledge brings about a revelation inside Mr. Johnson because up until David’s arrival in Pleasantville there was no free thought, only routine.

In “Die Welle” one by one the young and impressionable individuals enter the classroom. Wegner asks them to all wear white shirts, if they want to be a part of the group. They must all sit up straight and never slouch. “You will call me sir, and address me with the upmost respect.” Conformity begins to stretch from one side of the room to the other, with little opposition. Separately these students believe in individuality, but together they are living and breathing for the community. On screen Die Welle is depicted first as an idea, then later a way of life. The students begin to act out, and justify their actions with the ideologies set forth by Wegner but with complete misinterpretation. Acts of segregation, vandalism, debauchery, and murder occur amongst the group members.

They all either take pride in the acts themselves, or for the more serious cases, disregard behavior because they are a member of Die Welle. Two Groups, the Punks and The Wave have a stand off confrontation under the bridge, and Tim pulls a gun out and points it at the head of The Punks. This is an extreme case but the group members quickly disregard. The dangers of conformity are apparent as the movie progresses, and escalate as the relationships between the members heighten. Not one person from the group would have gone to the lengths of spray-painting the city or and placing stickers around town. Nor would they have begun to bring guns around for protection, unless the mindset of the group had not take over with the accepted beliefs of power, control, and aggression.

It’s interesting to note, that in “Die Welle,” the outlandish activities, and more importantly the beliefs the group takes part in, are not shared by everyone in the class. Karo and a few other students throughout the film appose the Wave and are quickly ostracized. Some just making comments regarding why she was not partaking in the group, and others giving more verbal and discriminatory statements. The director uses Karo as the counterpoint to the community, she stands strong with her ideals and represents the power of the individual. The first and most impactful situation was when Wegner began asking questions to the group. The cinematography heightened the awareness and stressed the point of group dynamic. Close up shots, of individuals in white, group shots pointing out Karo was not involved, and that the group was acting against her. When Die Welle was out in force vandalizing the town there were countless shots of Karo sitting at home, trying to call her boyfriend Marco. He ignores the phone call and continues on with the tagging and spray painting.

Relooking at Pleasntville the strongest aspect of the film Pleasantville is the use of over dramatized visuals and bright colors, which drive the points of community and individuality home. In the scene where the basketball team is practicing, the audience gets a solid understanding about the stability inside their world. The entire team is simultaneously shooting at one hoop, without one shot being missed. They all move, shoot, grin, and talk the same. The fast paced actions shots melded with smooth cuts over-dramatize the ease and naturalness, as well as the perfection that takes places in the gym and in their society. The small sub-community of basketball players epitomizes the behavior, and more importantly the personalities of the bigger community outside the school.

Later in the film color begins to play a very crucial roll, and brings a lot of variation to the shots. Jenni takes Skip up to Lover’s Lane, where she and he perform sexual acts, bringing some of the first real individualized emotion onto the screen. The rose is red when Skip drops Jenni off – red for the lust and red for passion. This starts a snowball effect for everyone the film who begins to become an individual; colors start emerges all over the screen. “It should go away on it’s own. Just keep away from the sweats and the grease.” A young girl with her mother visits the doctor due to her tongue becoming pink. This is directly linked to the idea of sexual acts, the tongue also changes color because of the communicating and knowledge transferred from individual to individual, via the mouth.

Cinema gives anyone with a vision the ability to express themselves on screen, in the most powerful visual medium there is. Over time we as a society have been educated and taught to better understand the conditions of our world. The conflict of individuality vs. community has been apparent and growing for thousands of years. Parallels can made to Nazism and the extermination of the Jewish race, as well as the enslavement of African-Americans for hundreds of years in the United States. Conformity is dangerous in itself, and when you add ignorance to the side of the populous or the community, and emotionally strong and intelligent to the side of the individual, the situation can exponentially grow and soon get out of hand. In “Pleasantville” the individual was the catalyst that brought about dramatic change in the community. But once this change occurred the groups opposing individuality began to segregate and discriminate against the individuals. Similarly in “Die Welle” through conformity the individuals were disregarded and even penalized for not being a part of the group.
Through conformity individuals lose track of who they are, and in more severe cases rewire their personal belief systems.

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