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By Brent Davidson
2nd November 2015

Oh boy, does this film make you think! Not only in consideration of how interesting the subject matter is, but also in a “I wonder what I would do” sort of way. Are you ready to take the experiment?

Stanley Milgram is a legend in the world of Experimental Psychology. Driven by the motivation to understand how ordinary people like you and I could carry out an atrocity like the Holocaust, he designs a series of experiments to determine just how far people can be pushed whilst obeying orders.

I apologise as this is a complete oversimplification of the experiments, and it's probably hard to do them justice without a couple of hundred of extra words, so if this is something you are interested in I implore you to do some research – it is fascinating. I can’t help but wonder how I would have reacted in similar circumstances, and no doubt you will too. Seeing this actually really made me want to get someone else to watch it, then crack open a bottle of wine and talk for a few hours about humanity - seriously, that’s how intensely it makes you think.

In terms of the filmmaking, it's quite an interesting in the way 'Experimenter' made. It has a very presentational style, almost lending itself to theatre. Accompanying this with some very surreal backgrounds - there are even scenes shot entirely in front of a green screen - it's almost like you have a film that sits on the outskirts of both cinema and theatre. Lucky for me, they are two things that I love so was very much taken by the device. The performances by Peter Sarsgaard (Stanley Milgrim) and Winona Ryder (Sasha Milgrim) are flawless, and with the whole film riding on Sarsgaard’s shoulders he does a tremendous job.

If this movie does nothing other than expose people to the test and make them think about their own relationship to authority, I think it will have done its job. It's also a wonderful insight into the man behind the tests and his motivations. Even after writing this and thinking about it for at least a day, all I can think is “What would you do?”

Looking for more Jewish International Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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