159 - Das Experiment (2001)

An experiment which forces people to assume the roles of guards and prisoners gets out of hand.

Tarek Fahd, a taxi driver, spots an advert in the local newspaper to take part in an experiment in exchange for 4000 German marks. He offers his services, and finds out that it is an experiment that consists of a mock prison, where volunteers take on the roles of prisoners and guards.

After undergoing various tests, Tarek is named as one of the prisoners and agrees to leave his civil rights behind. The guards are told to ensure that the prisoners adhere to the rules - including calling each other by their assigned prisoner numbers.

Tarek (no. 77) stretches the rules until one guard begins to show sadistic tendencies and - despite not being allowed to use violence as part of the experiment rules - begins to order compliance in "his" prison using whatever force necessary.
Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia

Despite the ludicrous sounding plot, the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, on which Das Experiment is based, was designed to test the psychological effects on prisoners and guards. Like the film, the experiment had to be stopped early as the guards exceeded their roles.

Ironically, if the film had finished as the true experiment did, with the guards and prisoners calming down and discussing what went on, it probably would have been a bit of an anti-climax. Equally bizarrely, if the real experiment had gone to the extremities of where the film reached, it would have been condemned as one of the most sadistic mistakes in history.

Das Experiment's exaggerations do nothing to tell the real story behind the film, but its theatrical license enables it to piece together an interesting plot around its central character. It doesn't wimp out of the gory side of the experiment either, with plenty of blood and upsetting scenes throughout to enhance the cinematic experience.

Like all good foreign films it has had an American remake which, like all good foreign films, is worse than the original. Perhaps the German's weren't working under any violence restrictions, especially with today's various Wars.

All in all a chilling and a hauntingly close to the truth film. Just don't expect a documentary.