Social experiments series

April will be the month of social experiments at the Philm Club; we will screen a selection of movies tackling questions of social behavior and norms. More specifically, we selected allegories and experiments that question the behavioral norms of “normality” and present humans in limit situations to examine their responses. The topics range from Kafkaesque existential mazes to the “classic” prison experiment and unorthodox school experiments on ideology.

Cube (1997)

Directed by Vincenzo Natali
English, 90 minutes.


A handful of people find themselves lost in a maze of metallic cubelike rooms. Doors in the center of each surface, six in all in each room, lead to rooms that are nearly identical, though colors vary slightly and some rooms are horrendously booby-trapped. The purpose of the structure is entirely a mystery. The group of prisoners gathers as, one by one, each stumbles across others in their exploratory travels through the Cube. All agree they don’t know how they got into the Cube, and they team up to search for a way out.
Who put them in there? The government? Is it a prison? A test? A “rich psycho’s entertainment”? (

Screening: Friday, April 5, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

Das experiment (The Experiment, 2001)

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel
German with English subtitles, 120 min.


Human behavior is determined to some degree by the uniforms we wear. An army might march more easily in sweat pants, but it wouldn’t have the same sense of purpose. School uniforms enlist kids in the “student body.” Catholic nuns saw recruitment fall off when they modernized their habits. If you want to figure out what someone thinks of himself, examine the uniform he is wearing. Gene Siskel amused himself by looking at people on the street and thinking: When they left home this morning, they thought they looked good in that.

“Das Experiment” suggests that uniforms and the roles they assign amplify underlying psychological tendencies. In the experiment, 20 men are recruited to spend two weeks in a prison environment. Eight are made into guards and given quasi-military uniforms. Twelve become prisoners and wear nightshirts with numbers sewn on them. All 20 know they are merely volunteers working for a $1,700 paycheck.

The movie is based on a novel, Black Box, by Mario Giordano. The novel was inspired by the famous Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971, a classic of role-playing. On that experiment’s Web site, its director, Philip G. Zimbardo, writes: “How we went about testing these questions and what we found may astound you. Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.” (

Screening: Friday, April 12, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

Die welle (The Wave, 2008)

Directed by Dennis Gansel
German with English subtitles, 107 min.


Did you ever reflect on the circumstances that generate fascism? Are you aware of the fact that even you, yourself, might be a bit of a fascist and not know it? Such is the hypothesis and the test put forward by The Wave. Teacher Ron Jones follows very specific steps in order to prove to students, in a highly unorthodox way, the fact that everyone has it in them to become a fascist. (

Screening: Friday, April 19, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.


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