Thursday, July 30, 2015

When students become prisoners

Re-living a brutal experiment at Stanford University
If you're looking for a drama that demonstrates the alarming malleability of human nature, you may want to try The Stanford Prison Experiment, a tightly wound look at a real-life experiment that took place at Stanford University in 1971. Twenty-four students volunteered to play prisoners and guards, roles that were arbitrarily assigned. Billy Crudup plays Dr. Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who concocts the experiment. He believes that his foray into how men behave under pressure ultimately will benefit society. A capable group of young actors portray the guards and prisoners. Working from a screenplay by Tim Talbott, director Kyle Patrick Alvarez ably puts the story through its psychologically brutal paces. The point: People will rise (or in this case "sink") to their assigned roles in any relationship based on unequal power. The screenplay raises the right ethical questions, although it's clear from the outset that the experiment qualifies as a questionable endeavor. Long before the experiment reaches its abrupt conclusion, you may find yourself wondering whether you're looking at science or sadism.

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