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Wednesday, Oct 21 2015

Michael Almereyda's biopicExperimenteris an experiment in and of itself. In 1961, less than 20 years after the Holocaust, social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard, in a wonderfully understated performance) conducted a series of experiments that tested people's willingness to hurt strangers solely because an authority figure instructed them to. Most people were willing to do as they were told, even when the stranger they were hurting begged them to stop.Experimenterfollows Milgram's life from those experiments up through his death in 1984, and how his notoriety and clinical view of humanity affected his relationship with his wife Sasha (Winona Ryder) and the world at large. Almereyda makes no attempt to the hide the artificiality of moviemaking: Sarsaard narrates the film to the audience, documentary film is mixed in with the new footage, and there are frequent uses of an intentionally fake rear-projection, sometimes in black-and-white. The result often feels like a stage play — and would work well as one — but with that fakeness,Experimenterparadoxically feels more real than it might have if it was played as a straight narrative. Indeed,Experimenteroften feels like an Errol Morris documentary, and though it never quite answers why humans are capable of such inhumanity to one another, neither could Milgram.


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Sherilyn Connelly


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