The Experiment - A Fascinating Study About The Roots of Authoritarianism

                         I would suggest anyone suffering from depression to avoid the German film, 'The Experiment,' because it does nothing to convince you otherwise. This psychological thriller was made all the more terrifying and compelling because of its basis in reality. The movie is a fictionalized version of the infamous real-life 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, in which a group of college students were divided into ‘prisoners’ and ‘guards’ and agreed to live in a mock-up jail for a period of time. 

                          The Experiment is a gloomy testament to the corruption born of absolute power, interspersing its thought-provoking subject matter with enough interpersonal conflict and mid-level violence to prevent it from becoming the cinematic equivalent of a scholarly research paper. Apart from the unsettling  real-life underpinnings, Das Experiment combines German post-fascist soul-searching to the fast-paced voyeuristic thrills of reality TV.

         A taxi-driver, Tarek (Moritz Bleibtreu), comes across a newspaper ad calling for volunteers for an experiment lasting 14 days. He visits the Psychological Institute where, the scientific assistant for the project,  Dr. Jutta Grimm (Andrea Sawatzki), explains that it involves role-playing in a prison-like setting.Tarek wants to use the money from the project to ignite his journalism career, and decides his involvement could make a great undercover story.

            Volunteers are divided into two groups of ten as guards and prisoners. The doctor also adds that those who take part will be required to give up their private life and their rights as citizens. Tarek is confident that the best way to make it through is to treat it as a game. Disputes arises though, as he clashes with one of the guard named Berus (Von Dohnayi), a particularly brutal, Nazi-like guy. It doesn't help that Tarek has a blazing hatred for all authority figures because he was humiliated as a boy by his cruel father. Then, the hyper-masculine mind game spins even further out of control.

                 Moritz Bleibtreu, with his dark looks and troubled eyes, rises to the challenge of the main role. He gives an unbelievably assured, charismatic performance as Tarek. Moritz is equally supported by a fine cast, including Von Dohnanyi as the closet-fascist Berus, Antoine Monot Jr. as sympathetic guard Bosch, and Christian Berkel as the cool Steinhoff, an air force major who's also working undercover. The screenplay by Don Bohlinger, Christoph Darnstädt and Mario Giordano, is well-structured in its small steps toward violence as the guinea pigs start to believe in their roles. One of the most alarming aspects of 'The Experiment' is that it all goes so wrong so soon and yet remains utterly convincing. 
                  Director Oliver Hirschbiegel's movie has aspects of a twisted "reality TV" show, and the narrative portrays man's inhumanity to man. . It can also be seen as a commentary on the Nazism that emerged and overtook Germans 70 years ago. Oliver forces moviegoers to ask, "What would I do in a similar situation? 

                  Das Experiment is an actual study of authoritarianism explored cinematically. The query of how Nazism gained power is the obvious common thread through this film, and each is concerned with systemic discipline and punishment.In a contemporary way, the movie also explores the inherent cruelty of Big Brother, Survivor,and other social-endurance peep shows. There can be little doubt that placing power in the wrong hands can have disastrous results, but It's a bit difficult to believe that anyone participating in a mere simulation would submerge his moral compass to the extent that he’d participate in some of the group’s barbaric activities. But the movie maintains our interest by building to a crescendo. 

                  It is quite easy to sit back in the comfort of our homes and evaluate the violence in the many hot-spots around the world. But, it is quite another thing to witness a film like this one and to realize that there is within each one of us a monstrous guard who given the opportunity could revel in the chance to hurt others. 'The Experiment' is a sustained symphony of physical and psychological horrors, which isn't comforting, but gripping, and the whole thing will have you squirming in your seat. 


Das Experiment - IMDb 


Anupam Patra said...

Here’s something I want to give you. You deserve it.

Congrats !!! Here it lies

Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

Lovely movie but somewhow didn't like it much when they remade it in ENglish. Great post