Directed by Oliver Hirscbiegel
Produced by Norbert Preuss, Marc Conrad & Fritz Wildfeuer
Written by Mario Giordano, Christoph Darnstadt & Don Bohlinger
Director of Photograpy Rainer Klausman
Music by Alexander Van Bubenheim
Cast: Moritz Bleibtreu, Christian Berkel, Justus Von Dohnanyi & Edgar Selge
2001/119 mins/Color/5.1 DD
1.85:1 anamorphic/German/Germany/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment DVD
We've got a bit of a disagreement going on with the DVD of THE EXPERIMENT (AKA DAS EXPERIMENT). The text on the DVD box reads, "Based on a chilling true story...", while a warning at the film's open states that the film is completely fiction. While the film which then unfolds may present fictional characters and locations, the premise which it presents is real. You see, in 1971, Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo wanted to explore the effects of harsh situations upon average people. So, he created the now infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, in which a mock prison situation was created, where experiment volunteers were divived into two groups: prisoners and guards. The experiment yielded results far beyond Zimbardo's expectations and has become one of the most famous studies of modern psychology. THE EXPERIMENT takes this real-life situation and runs with it. (For more information about the Stanford Prison Experiment, visit http://www.stanford.edu/dept/news/relaged/970108prisonexp.html or http://www.prisonexp.org/ .)
Cab Driver Tarek Fahd (Moritz Bleibtreu) answers a newspaper ad seeking volunteers for a psychology experiment. Participants will receive 4000 Marks, which is approximately $2400.00. Fahd learns that the experiment will involve a mock prison situation. Twenty volunteers are chosen -- 12 prisoners and 8 guards. At first, everyone treats the experiment as a game, and appears to only be interested in the money, but after only a short time, the participants become entrenched in their roles. Soon, tension in the "prison" begins to mount, and the one-time "game" turns into a very deadly situation.
I realize that's a very brief synopsis, but that's all you really need to know going into this film. For, even if you are familiar with the Stanford Prison Experiment (as I was), that won't prepare you for the brutality of this film. THE EXPERIMENT is a modern version of THE LORD OF THE FLIES. The film poignantly explores how humans react when put into stressful situations where there are very few rules. Also, the Machiavellian construct that "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" plays a huge part in the story. Be warned, the film is very frank in its documentation of the proceedings and pulls very few punches. We experience the plights of the prisoners and the actions of the guards in a very realistic fashion, and at times, save for the creative photography, the film feels like a documentary. This style makes it very easy for the viewer to get sucked into the story and immediately sympathize for those who are forced to suffer. This only adds to the film's tension, and keeps one guessing as to how it will all end. THE EXPERIMENT does have some minor flaws. The film takes a while to get going, and the action is often interrupted by some very artsy scenes (which do eventually contribute to the plot). Also, it is difficult to understand Fahd's motivations at times, but without his behavior, there would be no story. The cast is excellent here, most notably Bleibtreu and Justus Von Dohnanyi as the self-appointed leader of the guards. THE EXPERIMENT won't appeal to everyone, but within its savage beauty, one will find a story that eerily reminds us how fragile civilization really is.
Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment, the company that was kind enough to bring us the German thriller ANATOMIE, now brings THE EXPERIMENT to DVD in Region 1. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The picture is very sharp and clear, showing only a very fine sheen of grain in some shots. The colors are absolutely gorgeous here, as the sterile environment of the prison is occasionally intruded by reds or greens. The image shows some minor artifacting and edge enhancement at times, but these defects won't detract from the viewing experience. The DVD contains the original German audio track in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. This track produces clear and intelligible dialogue, with no indication of hissing or distortion. Stereo and surround effects are plentiful and really help to add to the atmosphere of the prison. In addition, there is a very nice use of bass response. Overall, this is a nice transfer. Unfortunately, there are no real extras on this DVD, save for some bonus trailers for other Columbia titles.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©