Inspired by a famous 1971 psychological experiment, Oliver Hirschbiegel's German-language movie The Experiment finds a group of 20 volunteers randomly divided into 12 prisoners and eight guards and asked to play out their ... more »roles for a fortnight while scientists study their reactions. A conflict arises between undercover reporter Fahd (Moritz Bleibtreu), a con with a hidden agenda, and the apparently mild-mannered Berus (Justus von Dohnanyi), a guard with a megalomaniac streak. The film begins as a psychological drama as ordinary people settle into the game, with joking displays of resistance by the "prisoners" greeted with increasing brutality from the "guards," but detours into suspense and horror as Fahd, who needs the experiment to get out of hand in order to make his story more saleable, deliberately ratchets up the tension between the factions only to see the situation spiral nightmarishly out of control as various test subjects in both camps edge closer to snapping. With a terrific display of ensemble acting and unforced use of the popular claustrophobic semi-documentary look, Hirschbiegel's movie takes its time to get underway, with apparently irrelevant cutaways to Fahd's outside girlfriend (Maren Eggert), but works up to a powerful second half that delivers a sustained symphony of psychological and physical anguish. --Kim Newman« less
Incredibly Gripping Psychological Thriller from Germany
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 08/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Recently we have seen many brilliant German films -- such as "Run Lola Run" -- and now, another superb film comes from that country, with the same Moritz Bleibtreu (who was Manni, Lola's love). But this time, the thrilling film "Das Experiment" is excellent for totally different reasons.A taxi driver Tarek (Bleibtreu) sees an ad on a newspaper that looks very interesting, which read: "Participants Needed. 2 Weeks in a Mock Prison. Reward 4,000 German marks." He decides to apply, is accepted, and goes to a university where this experiment is to be done.The "experiment" is conducted as follows: 20 participants are divided into to groups, 8 "guards" and 12 "prisoners." The former group were given uniform, handcuffs and other equipments while the latter are required to live in a small cell, wearing only a long white jacket. Though no violence is allowed on both sides, the "guards" set up 6 rules for the "prisoners" to obey. In case of emergency, the professors provide monitoring cameras that relay the images to the controlling room where the supervisors are supposed to watch over every detail of the behaivors of the participants. In this way, the first day starts.But, as the days pass, the at first peaceful relations between the two groups start to get intensified. Some slight scuffle develops into a bigger and more serious fight and even the uprising of Tarek (now called No. 77), and those "guards" and "prisoners," ordinary people up until then, seriously start to struggle for the power, using unnecessary method of torturing and humiliating prisoners. The "experiment," revealing the brutal human nature under ever-increasing pressure, goes more than the intellectual professors expected, and everything results in inevitable catastrophy.The premise of this psychological thriller is so simple (and some may remember Samuel Fuller's "Shock Corridor") that you may be incredulous reading my summery, but I can tell you that this film is really harrowing and traumatic, and at the same time very gripping as a thriller. If my review lead you to think that this film is all about violence, you are mistaken. "Das Experiment" is, in my opinion, a first-rate psychological drama, or psychological thriller that will rivet your heart slowly but steadily, like any best Hitchcock films. But you must be also warned. Some scenes realize those humiliations of characters including Tarek in a so disturbing way -- for instance, his hair is all shaven by the secret attack by the guards -- that you stop even breathing with eyes nailed on the nightmare visions the first-time director (as feature) Oliver Hirschbiegel shows."Das Experiment" is an example of superb storytelling and observations on humans (and surprisingly, it contains some romance in it). Though some parts of the film seem to go too far (the university will not, I think, do this sloppy job), "Das Experiment," absorbing thriller and thought-provoking study on humanity, should not be missed. Finally some confusing things should be made clear. The film is based on the book "Black Box" by Mario Giordano, of which story is based on the psychological experiment conducted by Stanford University. Some audience might think that this film is directly based on this "Stanford Prison Experiment." The experiment itself is really a historical truth, but the film, set in today's German, clearly doesn't draw what actually happened at this university. But this fact doesn't reduce the value of the film at all."
Just when an experiment became the reality itself...
Burak Kilic | Istanbul, TURKEY | 05/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The film is based on an actual psychological based prison experiment that took place in Stanford laboratories back in 1971. The aim of the experiment, in my view, is to test the limits of a man's self-control and aggression. And, indeed, the resultscome out to be quite interesting, as the participants become the experimenters at some point of the movie.Moritz Bleibtreu, plays 'Fahd', a taxi-driver, who is an underground journalist, with the mission of catching the excitement during the experiment. We also know Moritz from 'Run Lola Run', which is yet another good german movie. Moritz, seeing the ad on the newspaper, which tells that a big amount of money is to be given to participants in a pyschology experiment, decides that this is 'the' chance. 19 other people, rather ordinary citizens, but with different individual problems, decide to take a part, too. They all seem to take the experiment and the directions easy; however, as days go by, each goes through different problems, which is the exact case the experimenters have intended to create. We see the professor's increasing delight, as the interactions between the prisoners and guardians get more intense and aggressive. As we proceed to day three, money gets vanished from the minds of many. Instead, it is survival, that is at stake this time. In fact, it will be the professor's surprise to see what has happened, when he comes back from his business trip...Oliver Hirschbiegel has directed the movie excellently, in a perfect sequence of events, that raises tension, excitement, and curiosity in the audience. The cast has been chosen with particular care, the roles are greatly performed by many of the actors and actresses. I think that 'Das Experiment' is one of the top-notch German movies ever made so far. Seeing this movie is not only highly recommended, but even essential."
Nightmare of human nature
Anna Otto | Seattle, WA United States | 09/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I will always remember this movie for its unflinching gaze at what can happen when good research subjects go bad. Watching this, one quickly forgets that these are actors playing at the "let's pretend we're in prison" game, and the shattering realism of it all is enough to make you squirm, if not scream. Apparently, in Germany, where the movie was watched widely, some viewers ended up throwing up or fainting in horror.
This isn't, of course, your average B-movie horror we're talking about either. The horror is in what people can do to one another, if given enough stimulus and just enough power. Stanford University experiment on which the movie is supposedly based actually was terminated before it escalated as much as the situation in the movie does. So it's all too easy to imagine how the events would have unfolded if somebody wise didn't just say NO. Plenty of characters in Das Experiment probably would have wished it was so.
The movie is very lucid, realistic, and keeps you at the edge of the seat at all times. Bleibtrau who also played Lola's boyfriend in Run Lola Run is an astonishing actor, projecting an image of an average man in an abnormal situation, but also someone who is extraordinary enough to be able to deal with it and survive it. The story of experiment is interwoven with the patches of love affair that he initiates shortly beforehand with a woman who crashes into his car. The movie is contemplative and quiet when it needs to be - frantic when it gains momentum. Great techno music serves as an accompaniment (although I didn't recognize the bands they used).
Another great German flick... I hope they keep'em coming!"
Donald S. Montgomery | hollywood, florida United States | 06/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was the first movie, in a long time, where I was jumping up and down on the couch, I found myself screaming at the characters and was genuinely enthralled in the drama and action. This was not a very predictable movie; it was a bit twisted. Without giving away too much, the movie is set on a sociologists experiment. Everyday Joes are placed into a would be prison setting. It is interesting to see how some become intoxicated with the power they now have. The prisoners are forced to also pitted against their own fears. I would watch this over and over again. One of my my favorite films!!!"
"If you think that all the theorems about the final aspects of the violence had been expossed before, watch this movie.
In the best tradition of the greatest films that explored this same object, let`s name the obligated references Shock corridor (Fuller),The chase (Artur Penn) , Straw dogs (Sam Peckinpah), Even dwarfs started small (Werner Herzog )The clockwise orange (Kubrick) , Cuckoo`s nest(Foreman) , The brutalization of Franz Blum (Reinhard Hauff) , Do the right thing (Spike Lee), Trainspotting (Danny Boyle), and The believer (Henry Bean),the insight landscape made by this work is really absorbing . The camera work is exceptional. The performances and thge script are superb. With special mention to both of the meaning roles. The concept of authority, and the fact of owning altough fifteen days , and how this circunstance slowly permeates the shadow places of the soul, showing how the human being can become in a true animal, just for that little amonut of power who seems to design a God`s messenger, or any religion.
In many aspects the film is a true collage of many relevant facts that the use of the violence and the resistence to it, can affect the psiquis , the behavior and the ethics of any human being in similar conditions, the horror (do you remember the last Brando`s speech in Apocalyse now?), the supreme efforts to surviving above all the troubles, the great support of the memory in circunstances beyond the edge conditions.
After watching the film you must remember Hobbes , and Orwell`s nightmares (Animal`s farm), because the message in this sense goes beyond the anechdotical story. Don`t think it just a simple horror film .
Gaston Bothoul, in his fundamental work "The war phenomen" (from the early seventies), tells us among other interesting items the long interval of peace in the world has been only two hundred years, so when you listen again about someone who dares call Aquiles like the cities`destructor, you should set this observation under a several analysis.
I don`t think you stay indifferent after watching it. It`s a devastating movie. And not for all tastes. But if you really face the hidden facets of the human being, his transformation under special circunstances, don`t miss it. And either think about the film like a peace`s aphology.
And above all what it shows the film at its end it`s the powerful message that nobody`s innocent, in the wider sense of the word."