The Experiment

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Tarek (Moritz Bleibtreu) is an undercover reporter and he has just signed up for a project, one that requires numerous other people and fourteen days. After the experiment has ended, the participants can collect a handsome check and be on their way, but what kind of project have they gotten themselves into? The experiment is one of social order and control, as a makeshift prison has been created to house those involved. A dozen of the participants are sent into the prison as inmates, to be watched over by the guards, the other eight folks. So a system of power and order is established, but how will it all unfold? The prisoners must live by a code of rules, nothing too harsh, but not the kind of freedom enjoyed outside the experiment, to be sure. The guards are instructed to maintain order, but to refrain from using violence or other sadistic methods. Anyone can leave the project at any time, but the hefty paychecks only go to those who finish out the experiment, so deserters seem unlikely. The mood at first is awkward, as the people try to adjust, but soon the social order begins to take root. Some prisoners accept their place, while other rebel and by turn, some guards take a harsher stance against the uprisings. The experiment is just that, an experiment, but what if someone takes it all too seriously?

In the mood for a good psychological thriller, but tired of the same old lame, predictable stuff Hollywood delivers? The run, don’t walk to the store and purchase The Experiment, which puts most recent genre offerings to shame. The premise is a simple one, but one which allows for endless scenarios and turns, so things never get dull in this picture. You won’t find the usual cliched serial killers, Ashley Judd, or teens in peril, but you will find a tense, unnerving experience that you won’t soon forget. A movie that doesn’t lean on cheap scares or tons of gore, but instead relies on the kind of evil one could find anywhere. The common evil, the one almost anyone could possess, that’s what The Experiment deals with. That kind of evil can as bad, if not worse, than the evil in maniacs and other psychopaths, as illustrated here. When the terror has an edge of realism, it becomes more effective, since it seems more possible in real life. The cast here is quite good also, with a terrific lead turn by Moritz Bleibtreu. But perhaps the visuals steal the show, as The Experiment has a creative, highly effective production design. So this movie is well directed, well acted, well written, and even looks excellent. Columbia’s disc has no extras, but looks and sounds wonderful, so don’t miss out on The Experiment.

The finest performance in The Experiment comes from one of the prisoners, the most rebellious one in fact. That role is handled by Moritz Bleibtreu, a name not everyone will recognize, but those with even a casual interest in foreign cinema should know him. If not his name, then his face, thanks to his work in the smash Run, Lola, Run. Of course, he wasn’t given much to do in that movie and in The Experiment, he is given the lead reins. He manages to turn in a splendid effort also, one that really drives the entire picture. His internal workings have to come through, in order to advance his character, which is no small feat. But Bleibtreu makes sure all the nuances are evident, so his character is rich with depth. I had some doubts at first, but he really shines here and shows his true potential. I hope to see him in more movies soon, especially if he can hand in the kind of work he does in The Experiment. Other films with Bleibtreu include Fandango, Simply Love, Three Dollar Son, Moon Father, Love Your Neighbor, and Taking Sides. The cast also includes Christian Berkel (Maiden’s War, Safe Conduct), Maren Eggert (The Pharmacist, Marseille), and Justus von Dohnanyi (The World Is Not Enough, Jakob the Liar).

Video: How does it look?

The Experiment is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This might be a little known import picture, but Columbia has drummed up a superb visual treatment. The print has some minor defects from time to time, but looks quite clean on the whole. The movie jacks around with the visuals also, so don’t expect a traditional appearance. The filmmakers liked to tinker with the light elements, as well as bathe the screen in darkness at times. So the contrast has its work cut out for it, but the black levels come across just as intended. Even in the darkest of scenes, the detail level remains on cue and all the other elements fall in line. No troubles with colors either, though keep in mind, the visuals are skewed in some sequences. All in all, a very good looking visual presentation from Columbia, who deserve kudos for their work here.

Audio: How does it sound?

The original German soundtrack is preserved here, via a dynamic Dolby Digital 5.1 option that is sure to impress. I didn’t expect a whole lot in this department, but wow, this presentation all but knocked my socks off. As the movie is dependent upon atmosphere, the eerie, excellent use of the speakers is great news. The tension is enhanced by leaps and bounds, as it feels like we’re trapped inside the prison ourselves. The audio elements on screen sound terrific, but the unseen elements also play a large role in this soundtrack. So if you hear something and look over your shoulder, no need to feel embarrassed. The surround use is very natural also, so nothing seems artificial or hollow in this soundtrack. This disc also includes optional English subtitles, just in case you don’t happen to speak fluent German.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes no bonus materials.

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