Das Experiment (2001)
Main cast: Moritz Bleibtreu (Tarek Fahd/Prisoner No 77), Maren Eggert (Dora), Christian Berkel (Steinhoff/Prisoner No 38), Oliver Stokowski (Schütte/Prisoner No 82), and Wotan Wilke Möhring (Joe/Prisoner No 69)
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel


Loosely based on the Stanford Experiment where they try to reenact the psychology of a prison only to cancel the experiment once the subjects resort to violence on each other, Das Experiment tries too hard to pander to artistic clichés. The result in a movie that tries hard to be something better than it actually is.

Our hero Tarek Fahd is a down-in-his-luck cabdriver that lives in an apartment with full glass window panes looking down the city, filled with expensive wooden drawers and cabinets, and a bedroom straight out of an opulent playboy's wet dream. I guess he should have just sold his apartment if he's so damned hard on his luck, but then again, he won't be able to get into the knickers of some woman he picks up one night, doesn't he? Trust these European filmmakers to be able to fit in some gratuitous female nudity in any context in any movie. The next day, Tarek answers a newspaper advertisement and ends up being Prisoner No 77 in the Experiment. Everyone is friends at first - until the guards feel that their check may not come when the insolent prisoners keep flaunting the rules and start exerting draconian and violent measures on the prisoners.

The movie rushes past the psychology of the inmates and the guards, resorting to superficial power trip clichés. The movie culminates in a bizarre free-for-all beat-and-batter scene straight out of a pulp fiction film that I actually burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all. No amount of fancy flashback scenes can mask the fact that this movie takes a credible premise and turns it into a silly film that doesn't know whether it wants to be an arthouse celebration or a Tarantino flick.

There is some decent amount of male nudity (nothing more explicit than bare buttocks) if you watch movies for this sort of thing. Bleibtreu has the plumpest and sexiest lips ever that I wonder how the other prisoners don't force themselves on him. Heaven knows, they're already prison clichés in every other way. I still say that Tarek should have just sold his stupid apartment and be done with it. Just because it's in German and every fancy critic falls over himself or herself celebrating this movie (because, after all, it's in German, wow) doesn't mean that it's any better than an average episode of Oz or even Big Brother. It should have focused on the psychology of the subjects of the experiment. It should have shown a little as to what the researchers are doing instead of just portraying them as helpless bystanders. It should excised the vapid "true love after one night of banging" nonsense. But no, in the end this movie is all about the irritating Tarek getting back at his aggressors, because at the end of the day, hey, why not? It's obvious that nobody has any idea what this movie is supposed to be, least of all the director himself.

Rating: 56


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