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"Das Experiment"

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.
Written by Don Bohlinger, Christoph Darnstädt and Mario Giordano.
Starring Moritz Bleibtreu.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  10/20/02 


I don’t what it is about me and foreign films lately, but in a quest to hit every major film market this year, I thought “Hey, I haven’t done German in a about ‘Das Experiment’?  That oughta work!”  So, there you have it.

Film number 93 this year was a good one.  “Das Experiment” follows a fictional lab experiment in which 20 men are separated into two groups:  prisoners and guards.  Researchers are performing tests to see how the prisoners deal with a total loss of civil rights while being held captive for two weeks.  The money is pretty good for the study participants, so for the subjects, it’s a no-brainer...until the experiment begins, and things go horribly awry.

I read somewhere that this film—set in a modern-day Germany—is based on a similar experiment performed at Stanford many years ago with similar results, and the idea behind the experiment both here in the film and in real-life is very, very intriguing.  Moritz Bleibtreu (who also starred in “Run Lola Run”) plays the lead prisoner here and he is excellent, but the whole cast really brings the idea behind their respective side of the experiment to life.  Watching the prisoners devolve over the first few days of the experiment is interesting, highly believable and just a touch scary; I don’t think I would want to spend an hour in a real prison, let alone two weeks.  So, watching the prisoner group be all buddy-buddy, then start to realize how bad it will suck to sit in a cage for 14 days is well done.  Things really take a turn for the worst by the end of the film, but up to that point, the experiment and its participants are very watchable.

“Das Experiment” also brought to mind my only experience doing a study of any kind like this—the time during Spring Break of my third year at UVA when I did a flu study.  In an incredible stroke of luck, my friend Dave “Money” Lee (the man who named this column, which makes him a “Cool Guy” Lifetime Member) actually had an e-copy of the essay I wrote to friends following my experience during the cold study, and that file is attached.  Trust me, you will LOVE this attachment.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09