The movie is anything but new as it came out in 2001. But I only saw it a week ago and it left me speechless (at least for one week; now I have my voice again and can’t wait to use it to tell you all about the film).
“Das Experiment” is a German movie by the director Oliver Hirschbiegel, starring the famous Moritz Bleibtreu – if you’ve seen at least a couple of German movies, you’d probably know this actor.
I love movies that start out interestingly and don’t have even one second of unnecessary dialogue, musical intermezzo or photo shoots which don’t add something of value to the atmosphere or plot. “The Experiment” is one such flick.
Based on a True Story
In 1971 a team of scientists “brilliantly” thought of an experiment that was to involve people posing as prisoners and guards. The outcome of the experiment was such that it got made into a movie thirty years later, and not because of its beauty. If you’re curious about the real event, you can look up to “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” But here, I’ll focus only on the cinematic version of this tragedy.
So, the genius scientists wondered what “ordinary”, free people would do in a situation where their basic human rights were denied to them. They posted an ad looking for volunteers and they offered a decent sum for the enthusiasts who could participate in the study for 14 days. Approximately 20 people were chosen, signed a contract and were divided into two groups.
Prisoners vs. Guards
The scientists told their “guinea pigs” that they’d watch them on cameras positioned in several places inside the prison. Prisoners were given real prisoner clothes and made to stay in real prison cells where they had to spend the next 14 days. The guards’ task was to maintain order and discipline and they had the right to punish prisoners any way they wanted, except using violence. Violence was strictly forbidden at least at first.
Unfortunately, no one counted on two “intruders” in this happy little group. One was the main character who got in only to report about the events to his friend – the journalist. And the other was a complete psychopath who possibly never got the opportunity to fully realize his psycho potential until the experiment began.
Once the intruder started provoking his guards in order to make things more dynamic and have something to report about to his outside contact, the guards first became defensive, then very annoyed, and finally completely sadistic. And it didn’t help the situation that the scientists were not unanimous in what they were trying to accomplish and how far they’d go to reach their goal.
Though at times difficult to watch, “Das Experiment” is a study on the human psyche, the good and evil, “normal” and “insane”, and it teaches us a valuable lesson on how much we don’t know about ourselves (but shouldn’t poke where it might hurt us). I strongly recommend it to everyone!
Ana Stanojevic is a writer, translator and online marketer who recently started writing about literature on her blog: Waiting For Nobel. Check it out!