Jamie H. de la Fuente
Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely summarizes Oliver Hirschbiegel's psycho-thriller DAS Experiment. A simple experiment conducted to evaluate the reactions of prisoners and guards in a controlled environment, but instead evolves into a psychological and deadly Pandoras box.
Based on the Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971, which was commissioned to evaluate the human aspect of control and power, DAS Experiment depicts the results in a frightful reality of prison life.
From the very onset, the movie captures ones interest with the curiosity of the experiment, but as time progresses this curiosity evolves into the dark desire to see what depths of degradation the prisoners are exposed to. Tarek Fuhn, played by Moritz Bleibtreu, and referred to as number 77, is a taxi cab driver and former reporter, who submits himself to the experiment for money and secretly the story of his experiences. The experiment starts fairly jovial, with guards and prisoners testing each others limits, and then turns very dark. Tarek, in order to make his story more exciting, tests the limits of the guards until the breaking point. A slow progression from personal humiliation to violence can be seen throughout its many stages in very disturbing ways. The pleasure the guards achieved by dominating the prisoners was portrayed in a Nazi type evil and efficiency.
Moritz Bleibtreu surpassed the bit role he had in Run Lola Run and recreated himself as an excellent leading man, making his character believable and his reactions frightfully accurate considering the situation he was in as a prisoner. Justus von Dohnanyi gave an unforgettable performance as Burus, a self-proclaimed leader of the guards with a dark demeanor that evolves from an average businessman to a domineering, vengeful henchman. Special note must be given to Oliver Stokowski for his realistic portrayal of Schütte, Number. 82, a lonely simple character who is trying to befriend the other prisoners ,but instead receives the brunt the guards anger. All the other supporting actors performed small but very realistic performances as guards and prisoners.
Presented in German with English subtitles, following the movie seems easy to follow, except for the occasional white on white subtitle text. The scenery, although very simplistic, augmented the desolate feelings of the prisoners by using simple bright colors and almost no furniture. The high impact sound, also used in Run Lola Run, adds to the occasional fast pace of the movie.
This is the first big screen production for Oliver Hirschbiegel. His previous works included a 1991 US released tv movie Murderous Decisions and 1994 German tv series Inspector Rex". Hirschbiegel directing style is reminiscent to German director Tom Tykwer of Run Lola Run with regards to loud, high impact scenes and bright color usage to define the environmental mood of the characters.
Overall, DAS Experiment was an excellent thriller that keeps you at the edge of your seat. Its not necessarily meant for the faint at heart, but if you enjoyed other thrillers like Silence of the Lambs and Seven this movie would definitely be one you wont forget.