The Experiment
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Experiment can be found here.

Yes. The Experiment is a remake of the German film, Das Experiment (2001), both of which were loosely based on the novel Das Experiment - Black Box (1999) by German writer Mario Giordano. American screenwriter/director Paul Scheuring wrote the screenplay for The Experiment.

To a certain extent, yes. The movie, and the book that inspired it, is loosely based on the real-life Stanford prison experiment conducted in 1971. A group of test subjects was divided in two subsets, one assuming the role of prisoners and the other assuming the role of prison guards. The main researcher participated in the simulation himself as the prison's superintendent. The guards were only forbidden to physically harm the prisoners, but they were not given any other limitations in order to keep the peace. The goal was to see if personality traits in prisoners and guards could lead to power abuse in prisons.

The experiment was supposed to last two weeks but was discontinued after just six days. The reason was that the guards and prisoners got into character too deeply. When the prisoners started to rebel against the strict prison regime and the uncomfortable clothing, the guards started to display increasingly sadistic behavior in order to keep them subdued and maintain discipline. Prisoners were subjected to regular humiliation and psychological torture, but strangely, they started to accept their treatment, even though they became increasingly stressed and troubled. None of them even wanted to quit the experiment when they were offered the chance. The main researcher himself became so absorbed in his role as superintendent that officials had to deny his increasingly excessive requests. He did not stop the experiment until his girlfriend confronted him with the immorality of the situation. By that time, one-third of the guard population had shown genuine sadistic traits and many of the prisoners were emotionally traumatized. The experiment was said to have demonstrated how easily people will conform to and obey a convincing ideology and group pressure. The subjects had been selected for their psychological stability, suggesting the excesses were not due to inherent personality traits but to the situation in which they were placed.

Similar results had been demonstrated some years before in the so-called Milgram experiment, where test subjects had to apply electric shocks to another person when the latter answered a question wrongly (at least they thought they were really hurting another person but it was only simulated). It turned out that many people, despite increasing objections to the experiment, continued applying the shocks as long as they were subtly ordered to go on and were assured that they were not responsible for the outcome.

The original experiment was conducted in 1971. However, the fact that Barris (Forest Whitaker) is watching a flat screen TV near the beginning of the movie, indicates a more recent setting. At the end of the movie, as Barris places his check in his wallet, the date on the check reads Jan. 14, 2010.

It was a solitary confinement tank, evidenced in the scenes shot by the camera while Travis (Adrien Brody) was locked inside. In the bottom left hand corner of the screen is a note identifying the tank as: CAMERA 06 IR MODE SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.

They didn't. They merely set up a situation in which the guards held all the power, gave them five rules for the prisoners to follow, made it their duty to reprimand the prisoners commensurately, and informed them that, if they didn't handle the prisoners, the red light would come on, the experiment would be ended, and they wouldn't be paid. The guards took it from there.

(1) Prisoners must eat three meals a day, and all food must be consumed, (2) there will be 30 minutes of rec daily, (3) prisoners are allowed only in prisoner-desigated areas, (4) prisoners must speak only when spoken to, and (5) prisoners must not touch the guards under any circumstances. A sixth rule was also imposed: Nothing is to come or go from the cell block...nothing from the outside world. Guards were informed that those prisoners who break the rules must be punished commensurately. Later in the experiment, a seventh rule was imposed by Barris: Nobody speaks into the researchers' cameras.

Was Chase gay?

Viewers of the movie are split on the answer to this question. Some say that, yes, Chase (Cam Gigandet) was gay or, at least, bisexual, and cite as evidence his intake interview in which, when asked whether his sexual partners were male or female, he hesitates before finally saying, "Female." They also refer to the scene where the prisoners are showering following their arrival, and Chase orders Oscar (Jason Lew) to turn around so that he can see his private parts. Other viewers argue against this idea, based on the same intake interview in which Chase reveals that all of his sexual partners have been females. They also point out that he masturbates to pictures of women, not men, and explain his attempted rape of Oscar as the actions of a sex addict who needed to satisfy his urges by raping and dominating a weaker prisoner. Probably the best answer to this question, since the film-makers aren't talking, is that Chase was obsessed with sex (i.e., stopped counting his partners after the age of 17) and did have a latent tendency to humiliate and subjugate those he saw as inferior, e.g., women, homosexuals, and prisoners (witnessed by the flashback of his sexual performance with the girl in the bar and his obvious delight when Barris kicks over Travis' chair and pees on him). These tendencies were then brought out under the conditions of the experiment, just as the experiment brought to the forefront certain characteristics in Barris, Travis, and others.

How does the movie end?

Day 6 opens with Travis still being held in the solitary confinement cylinder. In a storeroom, Chase has handcuffed Oscar to a ceiling pole and orders him to perform fellatio. When Oscar refuses, Chase attempts to sodomize him instead. Travis breaks out of the confinement tank and beats Chase to the floor. He releases Oscar and Nix (Clifton Collins Jr.), and they begin releasing the other prisoners. Travis finds Benjy still lying dead on the floor, his head bloodied. The prisoners grab clubs and other weapons and chase down the guards, some of which have mutinied against Barris and want out. Prisoners attack guards, and Barris attempts to stab Travis. Travis beats him to the ground. Suddenly, a siren starts to blare and the red light to flash. Doors open to the yard, and everyone walks outside to a bus waiting to pick them up. On the trip back, Barris can be seen sliding a check for $14,000 into an envelope and placing it between the pages of his Bible. Barris and Travis look at each other but say nothing. Nix asks Travis whether he still thinks humans are higher on the evolutionary chain than monkey, and Travis replies, "Yeah, 'cause we can still do something about it." Some days later, news breaks out of the experiment, and a TV announcer reveals that head researcher, Dr John Archalata (Fisher Stevens) has been charged with manslaughter. In the final scenes, Travis meets up with Bay (Maggie Grace) in India. They embrace each other fondly. Bay notices that Travis' knuckles are no longer pristine.

YKK by Fluke. The rest of the songs from this movie can be found here with scene descriptions.

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 3 years ago
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