Phase9 Movies 2000-12

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Year: 2001
USA: Samuel Goldwyn Films
UK: Metrodome Distribution
Cast: Moritz Bleibtreu, Christian Berkel, Oliver Stokowski, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Stephan Szasz, Polat Dal, Danny Richter, Ralf Muller, Markus Rudolf, Peter Fieseler, Thorsten Dersch, Sven Grefer, Justus von Dohnanyi, Nicki von Tempelhoff, Timo Dierkes, Antoine Monot Jr, Lars Gärtner, Jacek Klimontko, Markus Klauk, Ralph Puttmann, Edgar Selge, Andrea Sawatzki, Philipp Hochmair, Maren Eggert, Andre Jung, Uwe Rohde, Heiner Lauterbach, Fatih Akin, Christiane Gerboth, Friedrich Wildfever
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Country: Germany
Language: German (English subtitles)
USA & UK: 115 mins
UK Certificate: 18 contains strong violence and psychological horror
USA Release Date: 20 September 2002 (Limited Release - Los Angeles)
USA Release Date: 18 September 2002 (Limited Release - New York)
UK Release Date: 22 March 2002


Thirty years later, Stanford Prison Experiment lives on.

Thirty years ago, a group of young men were rounded up by Palo Alto police and dropped off at a new jail - in the Stanford Psychology Department. Strip searched, sprayed for lice and locked up with chains around their ankles, the 'prisoners' were part of an experiment to test people's reactions to power dynamics in social situations. Other college student volunteers - the 'guards' - were given authority to dictate 24-hour-a-day rules. They were soon humiliating the 'prisoners' in an effort to break their will.

Psychology Professor Philip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment of August 1971 quickly became a classic. Using realistic methods, Zimbardo and others were able to create a prison atmosphere that transformed its participants. The young men who played prisoners and guards revealed how much circumstances can distort individual personalities - and how anyone, when given complete control over others, can act like a monster.

"In a few days, the role dominated the person," Zimbardo - now president-elect of the American Psychological Association - recalled. "They became guards and prisoners." So disturbing was the transformation that Zimbardo abruptly ended the experiment.

Its story, however, endures, achieving a level of recognition shared by few other psychological experiments.

"The study is now more in the popular consciousness than it has ever been before," Zimbardo said, attributing part of the recent surge in interest to "reality TV" shows such as SURVIVOR and BIG BROTHER. Because he videotaped many hours of prisoner-guard interaction, Zimbardo has a record of how the individuals changed over time. "It represents a forerunner of reality TV," Zimbardo said.

Based on the real event The Experiment gathers 20 male volunteers to participate in a controlled, scientific exercise. A temporary prison is created in a college research lab, complete with cells and surveillance cameras. Conditions are that each participant will be rewarded with a cash prize upon completion of the experiment, which will last for two weeks. The participants are divided into two groups chosen at random - 12 to play prisoners and 8 to play guards. Anyone may leave the experiment at any point but forfeit the reward.

The 'prisoners' are contained and informed to follow basic, set rules whilst the 'guards' must maintain law and order without the use of physical violence. All 'prisoners' are to be known by the numbers allocated to them by their prison gowns. At first the status enforcement of guard over prisoner is unsure and emphatic. However, number 77, Tarek Fahd (Moritz Bliebtrue) is an undercover journalist. In order to get a more intriguing story he makes small revolts to antagonise the guards. By the second day his rebellion will no longer be tolerated and soon the guards employ increasingly drastic measures to impose a new authority with an air of megalomania that leads to disastrous consequences.

The Experiment is a brilliant piece of filmmaking that examines the psychology of status, power and role play. Consistently gripping it keeps the viewer squirming in their seat with tension and empathy.


16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 2.0
Switchable English subtitles

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