The Stanford Prison Experiment
The Stanford Prison Experiment delves into the core of the human psyche, exploring a variety of themes such as power and authority. The film follows the notable 70s study that assigned roles to college students – prisoners or guards – and scrutinised them for two weeks. Amid this makeshift prison, project leader Philip Zimbardo examines the subjects to understand the relations between prisoners and guards. However, things escalate when after a few days a prisoner is released because of psychological pressure in the “prison”. The experiment is terminated after only six days and it’s not hard to tell why.
Not only are viewers privy to the actions of the guards and the prisoners, they also monitor the decisions made by the superintendent and the people behind the experiment. In this accurate depiction of the actual study it’s almost like seeing it first-hand: one feels the prisoner’s pain and despises the guards. But what makes the feature especially interesting is the fact that it makes its audience question their own morals. It is easy to judge the maliciousness of the guards without stopping to think of the reality of the situation. All in all, this film sets up an incredibly dark tone and follows it through.
Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s cast is strong, especially in the case of Ezra Miller who plays prisoner “8612”. Billy Crudup also gives an excellent portrayal of Zimbardo, as he becomes obsessed with his research and ultimately assists in the psychological harm. Supporting performances throughout are superb, all in their own ways, as the students become either leaders or followers. Repeated scenes of abuse displayed by the guards captivate watchers, who naturally empathise with the prisoners. One begins to feel the pain of sleeping on the hard concrete, the countless jumping jacks and the dark visits to the “hole”.
The Stanford Prison Experiment is a visual masterpiece that explores the human condition and how quickly it can change depending on the right – or in this case, wrong – circumstances. It’s a compelling film that should spark the interest of not just lovers of psychology but anyone who enjoys sitting at the edge of their seat in anticipation!
The Stanford Prison Experiment is released nationwide on 10th June 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Stanford Prison Experiment here: