Das Experiment
review by Carrie Gorringe, 21 June 2002

28th Seattle International Film Festival

It took only two days into the SIFF for an unnamed filmgoer to proclaim that watching a film was not unlike waking up from someone else's nightmare, and there were several examples of nightmares readily available, such as Oliver Hirschbiegel's Das Experiment (The Experiment). Over the course of two weeks, two groups of men, from all socio-economic realms, are divided into prisoners and into prison guards. They will take part in an experiment in which the guards and the prisoners will demonstrate how long they can co-exist in this situation under the inevitable psychological pressure that will result from this situation. Each participant will receive 4000 marks if he survives to the end of the experiment. Two caveats: the prisoners agree to relinquish all privacy and civil rights -- the prisoners can only be addressed or identified by the numbers printed on their uniforms -- and the prison guards cannot use torture or violence to control them.

For the first four days, the prisoners have the upper hand until a prison guard remembers that one of the fastest ways to break a prisoner's will is to subject him to humiliation. Unfortunately, the prison guards can't resist their ability to flex their newly-found power and their urge to settle old scores. This, combined, with the lead psychiatrist's refusal to terminate the experiment at the first signs of trouble, leads to disaster. Similar experiments took place in the United States during the early 1970s, but they never went as far as these. The descent into brutality, and the raised-arm salutes that accompany the orders of the "leader" of the guards, recalls too eerily another time and far too unpleasant time in history.


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Directed by:
Oliver Hirschbiegel

Starring:
Moritz Bleibtreu
Christian Berkel
Oliver Stokowski

Rated:
NR - Not Rated.
This Film has not yet
been rated.

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