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EXPERIMENTER (director/writer: Michael Almereyda; cinematographer: Ryan Samul ; editor: Kathryn J. Schubert ; music: Bryan Senti ; cast: Winona Ryder (Sasha Milgram), Peter Saarsgard (Stanley Milgram), Taryn Manning (Mrs. Lowe ), Tom Bateman (Cavett), John Leguizamo(Taylor), Jim Gaffigan (James McDonough); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Per Melita /Michael Almereyda/Danny A. Almereyda/Fabio Golombek/ Isen Robbins/Aimee Schoof /Un Singer; Magnolia Pictures; 2015)
A robust biopic on Yale’s controversial social psychologist Stanley Milgram.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A robust biopic on Yale’s controversial social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Saarsgard), who died in 1984 of a heart attack. Director-writer Michael Almereyda(“Paradise”/”Hamlet”/”Cymbeline“) delivers a provocative film. Milgram’s experiments explore authority and conformity, and the unexpected results brought about a sense of culture shock for the public. Milgram’s wife Sasha (Winona Ryder) assists him. His experiments were created because he was disturbed by the Nazi war criminal trials and the claim that they were just following orders.

The pic opens in August 1961, just as Milgram begins his most infamous scientific experiment. It’s an experiment relating obedience to authority figures. Two randomly selected test subjects are chosen to be either “Teacher” or “Learner.” The Teacher must ask the Learner, seated in an adjoining room, a series of multiple-choice questions. If given a wrong answer, the Teacher applies an electrical shock to the Learner. The shock the experimenter received was in how few test subjects refuse to rebel against the cruel commands for a wrong answer to result in the innocent vic inflicted with pain. Two-thirds of Milgram’s nearly 800 test subjects administer the full range of electric shocks. They seemingly ignore their own ethical beliefs to rebel against such inhumane orders and obey orders just as the Nazi concentration camp commanders did when they claimed they were “just following orders.”

Many fellow scientists questioned Milgram’s manipulative methods in his research project as deceptive and also feared there might by long-range consequences for all participants in the study.

Whatever, alongside thought-provoking psychological filmslikeKinsey and Project Nim, this intriguing film stands out as being a particularly haunting one.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”