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You Give Me a Role, I Will Give You a Show: Review of "Das Experiment"

The True Nature of Humans: Das Experiment (2001)

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Written By: Mario Giordano

--Ending Voiceover: The tragic outcome: two dead, three injured, among them project leader Professor Klaus Thon. Clearly the experiment went out of control after two days.” --Movie Quate: Das Experiment

One of my favorite subjects, a study on human interaction. This well done German international film has its very basis connected to the Stanford Prison Studies created by Philip Zimbardo. His study was an experiment for Social Psychology, in which he took individuals and separated them into two groups. One group were the “Guards,” the others were “Prisoners.” He was just going to allow them to play their roles for a certain number of days and then have them switch roles. All the participants were just everyday people, but once they were assigned their roles, ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE. The experiment ended 3 days later after Zimbardo declared that it was too dangerous. The “guards,” became to aggressive and abusive, and the “prisoners,” became submissive and started to withdrawal from reality from the abuse of the “guards.”

Das Experiment took this study to a new level. The movie started out with a bunch of individuals going through medical physicals and psychological test. The participants were given and incentive in order to participate. Our main character Tarek Fahnd (Moritz Bleibtreu) enters the show. He is down on his luck and a little bit of a smart ass. He decided to join the study because he needed money. Enter, Gunther Schutte (Oliver Stokowski), a quiet fellow who just seems like your everyday guy, who just wanted a little extra money. These two men become the main feature within the movie after they enter the prison study.

The first day, Fahnd (Bleibtreu) who became a “prisoner,” showed his ass. He harassed and made fun of Schutte (Stokowski). Though they were not allowed to physically touch or harm anyone the “guards,” had to make up ways to punish the prisoners. This is where it gets aggressive. After enough harassment from Fahnd (Bleibtreu) was taken from his cell to clean the toilets due to the fact that Schutte (Stokowski) was in charge of the “guards.” His punishment was to clean the toilets shit and all with his close in which Schutte makes him wear after he is done without cleaning. As the “prisoners,” got rowdier the “guards,” escalated. This ended in chaos where both physical, mental, and some sexual abuse occurred. Now, I could tell you more but you should see it for yourself.

This movie, I watched while deep in my studies. It shows the true nature of humanity, especially when it comes to labelling people, as well as, how dangerous a stereotype can be without training. Neither the “prisoners,” nor “guards,” had to act the way they did, but given the opportunity they took on a role that became destructive, dangerous, and merciless. The true fear that comes from this psychological thriller is that we as beings can see that when left to our vices, we can be incredibly dangerous and deadly.

--reviewed by Professor Timore

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