Das Experiment  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Das Experiment ("The Experiment" in the US) is a 2001 German movie directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and inspired by the events of the Stanford prison experiment in the United States. It is based on the novel Black Box by Mario Giordano.


Tarek Fahd (Moritz Bleibtreu) participates with 19 other candidates in a prison simulation experiment for two weeks. The candidates are selected by a computer to be either prisoner or guard. The experiment begins smoothly, but quickly deteriorates as the guards develop authoritarian tendencies. Prof. Klaus Thon (Edgar Selge), perceiving the deterioration as standard psychological reactions, refuses to end the experiment, despite the protests of his assistant, Dr. Jutta Grimm (Andrea Sawatzki). As time progresses, the guards go to great lengths to conceal their actions and keep the experiment running, and the prisoners resist as best they can.

Similarities with real events

Although in the opening credits the movie claims to not be based on any real events, it is clear that the Stanford Prison Experiment provided the basis for the plot. However, the time period in the film is protracted and many events fictionalized in comparison to the real situation, in order to provide a proper storyline. The experiment in Stanford was aborted after six days following concerns from one of the scientists that the guards were abusing the prisoners, and that the prisoners were undergoing psychological trauma and becoming increasingly withdrawn. These concerns are echoed in the film by Dr. Grimm, but Prof. Thon decides not to act on them, forming the basis for an extended story and a more intense climax. Nonetheless, a number of events from the real experiment are mirrored in the film. The prisoners were indeed sprayed with fire extinguishers and prisoners were also forced to clean the toilets with their bare hands, although in the original experiment several were forced to do this, whereas in the film only Tarek is forced to do so.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Das Experiment" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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