Friday, September 24, 2010

The Experiment

Psychologists are curious people.  They want to know what makes us tick.  That means they sometimes come up with an experiment or two.  They ask people their favorite colour, or which stick is longer, or sometimes they'll ask you to shock someone.  Yes, psychologists are curious people and sometimes their experiments go to the edge of sadism, and put their toe on the otherside.

Then jump.

Which brings us to "The Experiment," loosely based on a real experiment.  The experiment is simple, a bunch of normal people are divided into two groups.  Convicts who will be treated as prisoners with no civil rights, and guards who will instill order and disciplin.  If the rules the guards have been given are not followed, then the experiment ends early and no one gets paid.  If there is physical violence the experiment will end and no one gets paid.  Within that wide context the guards are free to do whatever they want to keep order.

It's truly scary to see how quickly people lose their identities.  They quickly forget they are just a bunch of guys doing an experiment and really become convicts and guards.  It's scary because this is exactly how quick it happened in the original experiments.  One con, number 77, tries to look after the other cons and keep their dignity.  The head guard realizes that dignity is exactly the thing that they are free to rob from the cons.  As the stakes get higher the guards humiliate and degrade their charges, pushing harder and harder.  It is only a matter of time before everything explodes.  The only question is will those in charge of the experiment end it before then, or is the explosion the event they want to observe?

The film is both well shot and acted.  It is certainly better to watch this fiction of a the real experiment than the experiment itself.  There are somethings people shouldn't really see.  Luckily this film is something you should see.

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