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Das Experiment

A fantastic, visionary movie, extremely well made for all the right reasons; it employs a chilling storyline that conveys a palpable sense of dread and claustrophobia and has something important to say about human society.

A research board wants to study human behaviour by taking a bunch of men at random and putting them in a simulated prison; half will be guards, half will be prisoners.

All seems well and fine as the two groups (people with distinct characters) find their relationship dynamics in a closed (and closed off) system.

The guard contingent, particularly one - an unassuming man who sees a chance to get back at the world and prove himself (mostly to himself) - slowly get tougher and start taking it seriously. Nobody - including the audience - has reason to worry, as the research team are closely monitoring the situation and making sure everyone adheres to the strict 'no violence' rule.

But when the experiment gets out of control, it's both shocking for the audience and one of the best examples in recent cinema about how the best movies can draw you in. You get a strong feeling of hoping things don't go wrong, and when they do, they don't go as far as you think they will; as opposed to the usual Hollywood bluster when you're waiting for the conflict or action.

The guards overcome even their captors and the prisoners are truly incarcerated. The antagonist starts routinely tormenting the hero out of sheer human spite, one guard - having captured the female research scientist - strips her of her place in their little society and her clothes and tries to rape her, the guards beat one prisoner to death and all attempts to reach the prisoners legitimately are blocked by them.

And all the time you watch these horrific goings-on, you realise you're seeing a very deep comment on the state of power in society, unchecked power, and the importance of watching the watchers.

The prison experiment descends into a strange kind of ordered anarchy, and the characters and relationships make it thoroughly interesting to watch even before the tension slowly starts to build.

An amazing piece of moviemaking for both sides of the brain, based on the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment on 1971.

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