Belgrade International Film Festival

"Das Experiment" by Oliver Hirschbiegel [German Film]

Who can believe that "Das Experiment" is the first film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel? This film is based by the book "Black Box" by Jordana Maria. There are no killings in the book, but the director added a murder to make it more appealing for an audience used to seeing murders in psychological thrillers.

When you see this film, you realize the person who made it is very talented film director. This is two hours of top class psychological thriller. And the plot is absolutely fantastic. You know, if you sit down expecting the ordinary German Art Film, you?ll stand up at the end utterly surprised and fascinated by the plot and by the whole picture. I'm not talking only about the idea, I'm talking about the cinematography, and the plot and the acting. There is nothing in the film that is not needed, and there is nothing lacking, everything is perfect. Just a pure, tense, instinctive, psychological thriller! It's something that you can not learn in school, it's simply a talent.

The movie is about a psychological experiment to research the limit of human tolerance and psychological endurance. It's a work that would probably make animal protection organizations all over the world work harder to ban lab tests on lab animals. It's a frightening portrayal of what would happen if the doctors would use people instead of lab animals.

The group of doctors hire volunteers to participate in simulations in an experiment that lasts a couple weeks. During those psychological simulations, none of the participants of the experiment are allowed to give up or to resort to violence. In return, they'll get a larger amount of money.

For the experiment, 20 apparently healthy men are selected, eight of them assigned to be jailers, and the rest are locked up in prison. During those weeks, the jailers are allowed to put any psychological pressure on the prisoners but are not allowed to be violent. In less than two weeks, the jailers are cracking up under the temptation, crossing the line beyond psychological pressure to become violent. Prisoners in the experiment have to obey every wish of the jailers, and the jailers are allowed to expose them naked, lock them up, or embarrass them in any way that they want.

At first everybody acts as if the experiment is a joke. But as the days go by, the experiment becomes more serious and complicated. The film shows how "normal" people that we see every day, might not be that normal, if you put them in a situation which would allow them to discover their real personalities. Which was the prime aim of this psychological experiment? How much psychological pressure can the average personality can take?

It is very frightening to know how much violence in people is bottled up, and how many are natural predators. The people in the experiment are apparently normal. And how many dangerous people are out there, just waiting for the right simulation, or a chance to let go of enormous amounts of violence and aggression?

"If we can not explain the violence, than we can follow its genesis on the big screen," director Oliver Hirschbiegel says.



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