THE BAR SCENE – The Stanford Prison Experiment – film review

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THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT   

director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez   

opens October 2nd, Bytowne Cinema, 325 Rideau St.,  

School as prison? What a novel concept.

A Psyche 101 classic, The Stanford Prison Experiment is fictionalized (barely) for the big screen. Two dozen students were split into prisoner and guard factions, and on a $15 daily carrot (a significant chunk ‘o’ change in ’71), thrown into a makeshift basement campus prison. It’s a classic “see what happens to good people when put in a bad situation” experiment, conducted by professor Phillip Zimbardo, played with devilish zeal by Billy Crudup.

It doesn’t take long for those in authority to start abusing power, and for the oppressed to become ridiculously subservient. Sensory deprivation, and regimented bullying turn regular college chaps into broken victims. Each side growing more extreme with each passing hour.

As the mad lab conductor and prison warden, Crudup steers his disaster vessel onward as victims jump ship port and starboard. With the thesis being answered early on, the only reason for running the experiment seems to be if there will be any serious casualties, and what side will they come from. Even in the seemingly innocuous land of make believe, there can be life and death tension, and it is captured brilliantly here on film.

Seems ridiculous, but this actually happened.

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