The Experiment (2010)

The Experiment
Director: Paul T. Scheuring
Writer: Paul T. Scheuring
Remake of: Das Experiment
Based on: Stanford prison experiment
Cast: Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Cam Gigandet, Clifton Collins Jr., Ethan Cohn, Fisher Stevens, Travis Fimmel, David Banner, Jason Lew
Seen on: 26.6.2019

Content Note: homomisia, orientalism

Plot:
Travis (Adrien Brody) is a pacifist in need of money. That’s why he agrees to participate in a study that simulates a prison to find out about the violent tendencies of people. He and 19 others get put into two groups of prisoners, while 6 men, among them Helweg (Travis Fimmel) get appointed as guards. They all get a set of rules to follow and things are on their way. But pretty soon, the “guards” turn vicious and the “prisoners” have to fight for basically their lives.

The Stanford prison experiment is a famous sociopsychological study that has seen its fair share of criticism, but has nevertheless persisted in its claim to fame. The Experiment takes that real-life science project, dials the bad things about it up to eleven and believes it has something meaningful to say about the human condition in that way. In short, it is a very bad film.

The film poster showing Travis (Adrien Brody) holding on to iron bars.

I will admit that I watched the film mostly for Adrien Brody and Travis Fimmel. And while they were good and Fimmel wears make-up and a piercing (to my own personal delight) (not so much delight: that it means that the villain is queer-coded once again), they really aren’t worth to put yourself through the film.

The script is simply bad and misrepents and sensationalizes the original experiment in a way that is unhelpful and unnecessary and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (what fucking definition of violence were they operating on?). Of course, this is a fiction film and not a documentary about the experiment. Poetic license is okay. But with the mythologizing about the experiment that is already happening, this film makes everything worse.

"Guard" Helweg (Travis Fimmel) shaving Travis' (Adrien Brody) head while he is tied to a chair.

And in the end it seems to feel perfectly fine with drawing a conclusion of its own misrepresentations and that conclusion is that we are all just animals, helpless victims of our own instincts. And those instincts are never good, of course, never social, never geared towards helping. No. At least when it comes to men, there is only violence violence violence. And that is just a fucked up view of how humans are. It’s just wrong.

Add to that a dose of “the worst homomisics are the closeted homosexuals” and a helping of “white people finding themselves in India”, and you got a complete clusterfuck a film that has simply no appeal.

Travis (Adrien Brody) leading the other "prisoners" into the prison.

Summarizing: Skip it.

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