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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

entry arrow10:46 PM | On Watching Almereyda's Experimenter

Three things I pondered about while watching Michael Almereyda's Experimenter (2015):

[1] There are films that strike one as cinematic essays. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's Howl (2010) is really a dramatized demonstration of several approaches of literary criticism to the iconic Allen Ginsburg poem. In a similar stylistic vein, Almereyda's attempt is a fourth-wall breaking critical reassessment of social psychologist Stanley Milgram's contributions to the field, particularly his work on obedience and authority. Sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes it does. Both Howl and Experimenter work -- they come off as cool dramatizations of academic ideas, and we are enriched simply by just watching.

[2] How is it that in 2015, we got two cinematic takes on very famous psychological experiments on the banality of evil? [Hannah Arendt would have been interested.] There's this film, which takes a very deep look into the Milgram experiment [which posits that ordinary people will render evil acts as long as they are made to do so under authority of someone else; e.g., "I was just doing my job"]. Then there's Kyle Patrick Alvarez's The Stanford Prison Experiment, a less successful film about the aborted psychological experiment of Philip Zimbardo on authority and incarceration [which demonstrated how ordinary people, when given the slightest power and authority over other people in a hierarchy, tend to abuse that power]. Both films in 2015! Did they anticipate the rise of Trump, Duterte, and other neo-despots that started to bedevil us in 2016?

[3] I miss Winona Ryder. She plays the minor role here of Mrs. Milgram, but she makes the most of it, lending the part a quiet but also quirky elegance.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich