Moritz Bleibtreu, The Experiment

The Experiment


Beware of movies that set out to prove the savagery of human nature. All they usually end up demonstrating is that crude filmmaking can reduce anyone to a beast. Das Experiment is a fact-based German drama about a psychological experiment that, by accident or by design (perhaps both), goes too far. In Cologne, 20 men are recruited to spend two weeks, day and night, pretending to be prisoners and guards in a fluorescent-lit mock-up jail. All violence is forbidden, but do the guards turn out to be bullyboy fascists? Do the prisoners rebel? Does the vicious cycle of power and fear and sadism degenerate into something far darker than the experimenters planned? Of course, and of course: There wouldn’t be a movie otherwise.

Rigid, airless, and browbeatingly repetitive, ”Das Experiment” is an overly didactic piece of thesis hectoring; it’s like ”Lord of the Flies” set in a Skinner box. Moritz Bleibtreu, the thick-featured young actor whom Franka Potente was scurrying to save in ”Run Lola Run,” plays an unemployed reporter with a camera hidden in his glasses who enters the experiment so that he can land a big story, and though Bleibtreu gets you rooting for him, the other men, whether cowards or leering monsters, are drawn in such a paper-thin way that there’s no charge to the movie’s porno-violent screw tightening. We’re watching ciphers reveal the neo-Nazi within.

The Experiment
  • Movie
  • 113 minutes