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Das Experiment (The Experiment)

Das Experiment (The Experiment), is Oliver Hirschiegel's interpretation of a famous (actual!) psychological experiment from 1971. A group of 20 volunteers are randomly divided into 12 prisoners and 8 guards and asked to play out their roles for a fortnight while scientists study their reactions.

The film begins as a psychological drama as ordinary people settle into the game, with joking displays of resistance by the "prisoners" greeted with increasing brutality from the "guards," but detours into suspense and horror as Fahd (Moritz Bleibtreu) starts to manipulate the situation. Fahd is an undercover reporter who volunteered to be prisoner and plans to juice things up so he can write an interesting article about the study. The apparently mild-mannered 'guard' Berus (Justus von Dohnanyi) turns out to have a megalomaniac streak and things only go down-hill from there. As a result of Fahds' efforts, the tension between the factions rises and the situation spirals nightmarishly out of control as various test subjects in both camps edge closer to snapping.

The first half is a little slow with apparently irrelevant cutaways to Fahd's outside girlfriend (Maren Eggert), but the unforced use of the popular claustrophobic semi-documentary look makes it captivating and interesting. Although very violent at times, it's the powerful second half that delivers a sustained symphony of psychological and physical anguish and makes the movie one of my favorites.

The most scary and impressive aspect is that the characters and the situation are so believable, that the eerie feeling creeps up on you that your neighbor, co-worker, even your best friend, could potentially turn into a psychopathic maniac as well.

Well made, a great plot that leaves you slightly off-balance for a couple of days. A must-see!

Highly Recommended by Anne-Marie Dingemans from AmeriSpan

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