For two weeks, 20 male participants are hired to play prisoners and guards in a prison. The "prisoners" have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the "guards" are told to retain order without using physical violence.
The movie is based on the infamous "Stanford Prison Experiment" conducted in 1971. A makeshift prison is set up in a research lab, complete with cells, bars and surveillance cameras. For two weeks 20 male participants are hired to play prisoners and guards. The 'prisoners' are locked up and have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the 'guards' are told simply to retain order without using physical violence. Everybody is free to quit at any time, thereby forfeiting payment. In the beginning the mood between both groups is insecure and rather emphatic. But soon quarrels arise and the wardens employ ever more drastic sanctions to confirm their authority.Written by
The first cinema version had an insert in the beginning of the movie which stated "This is based on the Stanford Prison Experiment". Since Prof. Philip Zimbardo wasn't asked by the filmmakers - and the movie doesn't really show the true experiment, but an exaggeration, the insert was changed to say "This movie is based on the novel Black Box" See more »
I saw this film recently on the Sundance Channel. I could not stop watching. After seeing the prison pictures from Iraq, the film fully explored the reasons for the abuse of prisoners. When I read some of the reviews posted, I noticed how many dismissed the film as contrived and not plausible. I wonder if any of those reviewers would like to modify their dismissal of Das Experiment. Human behavior under stress often declines to the lowest common instinct. It reminded me of an adult Lord of the Flies. Degradation and humiliation seems to exactly follow what happened in Iraq. As a veteran who spent most of time working on Military Mental wards, I witnessed a number of abuses, as force had to be used patients were acting out or lost control, but all those memories seem pale compared to the horrors of the Iraq prison camps. Since life imitates art, this makes the film even more profound.
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