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The Wave & Tsunamis

On this week's edition of gaslighting geologists to avoid panic, Ghouls are talking about the Norwegian tsunami disaster film, The Wave. Kat explains how the Earth intends to murder us and why that's okay.

Sources in episode:

A tsunami destroys a Norwegian town in ‘The Wave’

'The Wave' Review: A Norwegian Disaster Movie on Par With Hollywood

The Impossible True Story: How Accurate The Tsunami Movie Is

What is a tsunami?

Red Cross - Tsunamis

Tsunami Tracker

Japan tsunami fears grow after sightings of rare deep-sea-dwelling oarfish

How you can help make a difference: 

UNICEF - Tsunami

Direct Relief - Japan

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Media from this week's episode:

The Wave (2015) Director: Roar Uthaug

Summary by IMDB: Although anticipated, no one is really ready when the mountain pass above the scenic, narrow Norwegian fjord Geiranger collapses and creates an 85-meter high violent tsunami. A geologist is one of those caught in the middle of it.


The Wave: Gaslighting Geologists & the Spectacle of Natural Disaster

Gabe Castro

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

The Wave is a slow burn. What we see is the classic “geologist tries to convince higher-ups of impending natural disaster only to be dismissed.” Father, Kristian is about to sell-out and work for big oil so he’s making the move from the quaint and picturesque Geiranger. The bulk of this film is Kristian feeling uneasy about the impending disaster but not being confident in himself enough to really do anything about it. We open with footage and information about a tsunami in the past. What I learned in that Geollywood class that stuck with me was that the farther away in time you are from one natural disaster, like a volcanic eruption, then the closer you are to it happening again. Which you know, has me pondering the same question Kat did in our last episode, “Why would anyone live in a place with danger looming?”

But to be honest, there’s risk of danger everywhere, right? And Geiranger is REALLY pretty and quaint. I get the appeal. Director Roar Uthaug works really hard to show us how beautiful this town is. The blues are vibrant and the reds muted to ensure the blues really pop. There’s a bit of science happening but it felt rushed or minimized to make way for more pondering shots. We have an absurd scene where Kristian is supposed to be leaving with his family to their new house and he turns around to go talk to his colleagues, leaving the kids in the car. Which is fine except he then goes on a spelunking excursion! Traveling there by helicopter and finding severed cords which seem like a big deal! Only, it’s brushed away rather lacklusterly and Kristian is just like, “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Despite all this evidence and the fact that we should err on the side of caution. I’ll just keep my family in this ticking time bomb of a location while I wallow in how sad I am that I know there is impending danger and no one will listen to me.”

Eventually, the tsunami does occur. It’s short but intense. Beautiful imagery that is savage and brutal. It happens so fast. This isn’t a classic disaster film that exploits the damage done by a natural disaster. In fact, when we do experience the wave it is suffocating and constrained. Kristian experiences the wave while in a car and we are knocked around in this tight space while the destruction occurs outside.

One thing I was expecting in this film that wasn’t there, was when the water on the shores is sucked back before a tsunami because it’s sucking up all the water. I find that to be truly horrifying. To turn and look at an empty beach and know that you have...maybe scant minutes or even seconds to get to high ground.

The rest of the film is a search and rescue. Lots of miscommunication, characters doing things other than what they told others they would and other a MURDER happens.

Does it accurately represent the horrors of a natural disaster?

In this helpful article on The Washington Post, A tsunami destroys a Norwegian town in ‘The Wave’ by Stephanie Merry we get a rather direct answer, “Fact: An eroding mountain in the Norwegian town of Geiranger may one day collapse into the fjord below, prompting a tsunami that could wipe out the village.”

Given that we experience the wave inside a car, I can’t speak to the accuracy of the event but the lead up to it, including the evidence Kristian collects while trying to convince the higher-ups of the impending disaster seem to check out. Kat found an article on Variety that honestly feels like we wrote it. Titled 'The Wave' Review: A Norwegian Disaster Movie on Par With Hollywood, writer Peter Debruge explains, “Roar Uthaug has made an equally impressive tsunami-peril thriller — a thunderous rumble-rumble-hustle-hustle-glub-glub nerve-racker that hits all the same beats as its Hollywood equivalents, right down to the implausible group hug at the end.”

Which I found entertaining but they also go on to say, “Whereas most nature’s-angry movies exploit relatively far-fetched fears (“Sharknado,” anyone?), “The Wave” anticipates a dauntingly plausible disaster scenario. According to Uthaug, with 300 unstable mountainsides in Norway, sooner or later, his countrymen will have to contend with the sort of massive landslide and subsequent 250-foot tidal wave he so enthusiastically imagines crashing down into the fjord, sending a wall of water toward the sleepy tourist hamlet of Geiranger.”

What is this film trying to teach us about humanity?