review by Carrie Gorringe, 21 June 2002
28th Seattle International Film
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.
Seattle International Film Festival
NR - Not Rated.
This Film has not yet