The Experiment (Das Experiment)
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
This was kind of an adventure pick that I read about a bit on the internet and ended up renting it. Forget the somewhat lame cover-art that makes it look like a direct-to-video release (which, I guess in America, it pretty much is), this is a pretty enthralling drama that, while somewhat contrived, makes for a pretty tense viewing after the "experiment" begins.
Cabdriver Tarek picks up on a local ad calling for people to be test subjects in an experiment for 14 days, paying a heft sum of 4,000 DM (it is a German film, afterall). It's a legit psychological study that will randomly assign the chosen subjects to play either prisoner or guard for the next 2 weeks in a controlled environment. But Tarek plans on documenting it for a new story in hopes to get back into the journalism gig he left behind a couple years back. It's a nice little backstory, but the real interest is in how the experiment itself plays out.
Basically it's kind of a meld between the suspense of Polanski and style of Besson, in German (and no, there's no cheezy english dub for you slackers out there). There's some somewhat disjointed editing in the beginning that are flashbacks, but you get used to it quick, and doesn't come into play much once the tension starts to build. Fucked if I know if the actors are any good in delivering their lines, but it seems like it with most of the main ones. And despite the predominantly male cast, this doesn't turn into a total weenie-fest. There is a love story entwined in it that kinda works at least on the basic levels, but it's more about these random people thrown together and looking at how distorted human behavior can become if given the proper environment.
Great Link: While escalation of the relationship between the guards and prisoners seems a bit quick, it's interesting to note that this was based on a Stanford University psychology experiment from 1971. If you're not going to pick up the movie, at least take a couple of minutes to read about it here, it really is intriguing: http://www.prisonexp.org/. The movie embellishes a bit on the behavior for sake of individual characters, but is very similar in many ways.
DVD Notes: Basic DVD put out in the US by Columbia Tristar in 2003, it is done right in Widescreen. I guess I've been watching too many movies in this format, cuz I don't even notice it being "letterboxed" anymore when the movie starts.