Forget about Psychosis and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. “Das experiment” is the modern manifestation of terror and the more bountiful coldblooded illustration of human’s lack of moral compass. After watching this thriller you will have no option but to admit that “Man is a wolf to man” and this becomes even truer if that man is wearing a uniform.
Its director, Oliver Hirschbiegel, reflects power corruption through a representation of a famous real-life experiment conducted at Stanford University in 1971. The picture goes beyond the actual events and imagines what would have happened if researches had lost control of the experiment.
This haunting movie shows 20 men enrolled in a social experiment taking place in an ultrarealistic mock prison. Twelve are made into prisoners wearing nightshirts with numbers sewn on them and the remaining eight become uniformed guards. The aim of this role-playing exercise is to reconstruct the psychological conditions in maximum-security facilities during two weeks.
At first, prisoners and guards take the experiment as a theatre play and seem to be amused by the situation and encouraged to do it well by the 4,000 German marks (€2,045) reward. However, that friendly environment doesn’t last long and what began as funny game turns nasty as the officers trying to maintain their bogus authority through humiliation and questionable methods.
Rapidly two characters emerge as “hero” and villain. Tarek Fahd – Prisoner 77 (Moritz Bleibtreu)-, a taxi driver who sings up for the experiment in order to chronicle the situation for a magazine story, turns into a saboteur teasing and testing guards limits. He has evident authority figure issues and is determined to cause dissent. His antagonist is Berus (Justus von Dohnanyi), prison officers’ leader and the instigator of violence, despite it being forbidden
Even though the outcome of the experiment is clear from the setup, the director proves his ability to inflict tension and turns viewers into kind of sadistic voyeurs, willing to watch the brutal confrontation and condoning the violence, almost like the researchers.
This film, based on the novel “Black Box” by Mario Giordano (“Das experiment” scriptwriter), shows the innate depravity of men and human’s natural inclination towards insanity. It is disturbing and makes viewers queasy but, paradoxically, is an unnervingly engaging movie. Have you ever seen the evil inside you? If not this is a brilliant way to explore your instincts.