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Das Experiment

Das Experiment film poster
Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel
Produced by Marc Conrad
Norbert Preuss
Friedrich Wildfeuer
Written by Mario Giordano
Don Bohlinger
Christoper Darnstadt
Starring Moritz Bleibtreu
Christian Berkel
Andrea Sawatzki
Music by Alexander von Bubenheim
Cinematography Rainer Klausmann
Editing by Hans Funck
Studio Fanes Film
Senator Film Produktion
Seven Pictures
Distributed by Senator Film
Release date(s) 7 March 2001
Running time 119 minutes
Country Germany
Language German

Das Experiment is a 2001 German film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.



In a newspaper advertisement, taxi driver Tarek Fahd discovers an invitation to participate in an experiment. 4000 German Marks are offered to the participants of the experiment, where a prison situation is simulated. The experiment is led by Professor Klaus Thon and his assistant, Dr. Jutta Grimm.

Tarek participates as a journalist while wearing a glasses that contains a mini-camera. Tarek has a car accident shortly before the experiment, after which he meets a woman called Dora. She spends the night with him and Tarek keeps thinking of her, shown in flashbacks. The 20 volunteers are pronounced guards and prisoners and are being observed by a team of scientists. The prisoners lose their civil rights and have to obey to certain rules, such as completely eating your meal. The guards are given beating sticks but are advised not to use violence in any case. Each prisoner’s name is taken away and replaced by a number. Tarek (prisoner nr. 77) initially refuses to acknowledge the guards’ superiority, by drinking the milk of his co-prisoners or by throwing his blanket out of his cell to provoke the guards. He befriends his co-prisoners Steinhoff and Schütte. Psychological changes develop and the situation becomes serious matter. The circumstances seem to be escalating after a few days. It becomes clear that certain limits are not just being reached but even surpassed.

The guards become excessively aware of their power and utilize the prisoners’ fear to make them obedient. At both sides, one person is considered dominant. At the prisoners‘ side, this is Tarek, and at the guards’ side, it is the quiet guard Berus, a sadist, whose motto during the experiment is: ‘‘Humiliation is the only way we can solve these troubles’’. From that moment, the guards start to use more and more violence against the prisoners. The scientists engage in a discussion whether or not to abort the experiment. Dr. Grimm suggests to put an end to the alarming situation, but Professor Thon refuses to stop the experiment until the violence has reached a maximum.

Dora finds out about Tarek’s participation in the experiment and utilizes the visiting time. Tarek pleads to the friendly guard Walther Bosch to secretly bring a message to Dora. Berus suspects him however. He incapacitates Bosch and tells Dora that everything is allright. The situation becomes critical and more violence is involved. The prisoners are being abused and their self-esteem is drastically decreased. Most of the violence is against Tarek. First, the guards shave his head bald and urinate on him, and afterwards, he is forced to clean the toilet with his own clothes. In the end, they lock him up in a solitary confinement. Schütte is beaten down severely, tied up and set on a chair, after which he dies of his injuries.

Bosch is beaten by the other guards for his ‘‘betrayal’’ and is put into prison. A scientist called Lars notices this and attempts to contact Professor Thon. The guards, who are aware that the professor cannot be reached, are convinced by Berus that the entire situation is a test, in which they want to see their reaction. They take over control of the facility and capture Lars, Dr. Grimm and the other scientists after which they are put into prison as well.

Dora, who has come to the facility a second time, is locked up in a room by Berus. A guard called Eckert attempts to rape Dr. Grimm until Tarek escapes out oft he solitary confinement through the use of a screwdriver he hid in his clothing. Tarek knocks down Eckert and frees Lars, Bosch, Steinhoff, Dr. Grimm and the other prisoners. They manage to escape by removing one of the plates at the wall of one of the cells with the screwdrivers and flee. Meanwhile, Professor Thon hears Lars‘ desperate message in his voicemail and leaves for the facility. Steinhoff and Tarek stay behind to lock the way back in order to prevent Berus to come after them. Professor Thon reaches the facility and demands an explanation from Eckert, after which the latter injures him by accident with a pistol. The fleeing prisoners are ambushed by the guards and trapped. Bosch, who could not keep up with the others, loses his sanity and kills Eckert with a fire extinguisher. Dora then escapes out of the room she was locked up in, and steals Eckert’s gun. She injures one of the guards fighting Tarek and Steinhoff, leaving only Berus to fight them. Tarek incapacitates Berus and the latter is nearly choked to death by Steinhoff until Tarek convinces him not to kill Berus.

The movie ends with a news break, confirming two deaths (Schütte and Eckert) and three injured (Thon and two others). Both Berus and Thon will be put to a court.



The film was inspired by the events of the Stanford prison experiment in the US. It is based on the novel Black Box by Mario Giordano.


It premiered on 07 March 2001 in Berlin and was released with an theatrical release in Germany one day later. In UK was released on 22 March 2002 as The Experiment and in the United States om 20 September 2002.


The Experiment, an American remake of the film, is currently in production. It will be directed by Paul Scheuring and star Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Cam Gigandet,and Channing Tatum.[1] Filming began in Iowa in July 2009.[2] According to reports in The Des Moines Register, Elijah Wood, who was previously set to star in the film, is no longer involved with the project.[3]


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