The Experiment is based on the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment conducted in 1971. A makeshift prison is set up in a research lab complete with cells bars and surveillance cameras. For two weeks 20 male participants are hired to play prisoners and guards. The 'prisoners' are locked up and have to follow seemingly mild rules and the 'guards' are told simply to retain order without using physical violence. Everybody is free to quit at any time thereby forfeiting payment. In the beginning the mood between both groups is insecure and rather emphatic. But soon quarrels... arise and the wardens employ ever more drastic sanctions to confirm their authority. [show more]
Few movies offer as much insight into the extreme reaches of the human psyche as "Das Experiment". Based on the novel "Black Box", by Mario Giordano, twenty men, including Mortiz Bleibtreu and Christian Berkel, drawn from all walks of life agree to participate in an extended, fully-monitored group experiment. With the promise of a cash reward firmly set in each of their minds, the men find themselves presented with a detention block and are split into two groups - prisoners and the guards. What follows, is a dark path. As the guards are empowered with basic control of the situation and the ability to reprimand prisoners, the prisoners bind together in boisterous camaraderie. As the guards punish individuals, the solidarity of the prisoners fractures. As punishment becomes abuse and degradation, the prisoners become less than human in the eyes of their captors. This piece of cinema shows how easily small, seemingly-reasonable steps can lead to very dark closer-than-imagined places. Like a surgeon wielding a devastatingly sharp scalpel, Oliver Hirschbiegel slices through layer after layer of pretence, facade and presents a master class in mounting tension and gradual deterioration in human morality. It is inevitable, given its' language, that this film be viewed with no small sense of historical weight. That perfectly reasonable men can commit horrific acts and sleep soundly afterwards is one central theme. But undoubtedly, the innate strength of the individual in such circumstances is another, and, I would suggest, more worthy of remembrance.
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