Sunday, 19 June 2016


The hazy clarity of fact transposed into the clear haze of fiction. The Stanford Prison Experiment is the sensationalization of an event that didn't need sensationalized, the simplification of a story that didn't need simplified, and nevertheless an inherently compelling film on the nature of the male psyche as expressed through, or controlled by, our societal institutions. That's nothing less than the very intention of the infamous 1971 experiment itself, if not the most valuable angle from which to approach the outcomes of its notoriously compromised method. Kyle Patrick Alvarez astutely shifts the focus of his film from the psychological study of the experiment's participants to a similar study of its creators, themselves adopting increasingly participatory roles. Alas, perhaps aptly, if counter-intuitively, The Stanford Prison Experiment functions as a study of its own creators, and their drive to manipulate a process whose intentions were much more meritable. Alvarez and writer Tim Talbott's psychological inquiry has only the semblance of depth - and remarkably little breadth given the number of notable characters - rather ringing out the same points over and over. Cinematically, Alvarez achieves an admirable level of emotional intensity that acutely captures the feverish friction that must have distinguished the experiences of those who submitted themselves to this most audacious venture. But that audacity, if indeed not even marred by but accentuated by its flawed nature, is not reflected in this artistic venture. There's little sense of appreciation for the ethical and emotional complexities that are so readily inferred by mere mention of this experiment; in their place, a fun, fictionalized reduction.