Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stanford's Prisons

Author(s): Josh P.
Location: IL

"Stanford’s Prisons"

Written and Directed by David Cronenberg
Produced by David Cronenberg and Robert Lantos
Art Direction by Carol Spier and Peter P. Nicolakakos
Costumes Designed by Denise Cronenberg
Cinematography by Peter Soschitzky
Edited by Ronald Sanders
Music by Howard Shore

Main Cast

Alfred Molina (Philip Zimbardo)
William Hurt (Craig Henry)
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Carolyn Burkhart)
Ethan Hawke (Guard “John Wayne”)
Jeremy Davies (Prisoner #416)
Oded Fehr (Prisoner #8612)
Morgan Kelly (Prisoner #724)
Jason Flemyng (Prisoner #5246)
Chris Evans (Prisoner #385)
Patrick Wilson (Guard Rolands)
Topher Grace (Guard Sheriff)
Rutger Hauer (Guard Kellerman)
Randy Quaid (Guard Peterson)

Tagline: "The darkest prisons exist within the nature of men"

Synopsis: Many famous and notable psychological experiments have been performed that have left a significant impact. In 1971, Philip Zimbardo (Molina), a psychology professor at Stanford University, collaborated with a colleague (Hurt) and a research assistant (Gyllenhaal) to perform a psychological experiment to witness the nature in the relationship between prisoners and their guards. A makeshift prison block was set up in the basement of the college, and a group of ordinary citizens filled the positions of prisoners and guards. What transpired in less than a week was a deeply disturbing set of data.

Upon the arrival of both the guards and the prisoners, to which all were given pseudo-names, there were already problems. The men recruited as guards committed degrading acts against the prisoners. They would keep them awake in the late hours of the night and repeatedly taunted them. Slowly, the experiment was becoming a consuming thing. The men started to identify with their roles and wouldn’t break free from this fictional setting. Except for one prisoner (Davies). He constantly defied the guards in hopes of causing a riot. When his intentions were discovered, one guard (Hawke) saw it that he never got the chance. Nicknamed “John Wayne,” he intimidated prisoner #416 by taking away his bathroom privileges, making him clean toilets with his bare hands, and slowly began to have a psychological scar on the prisoner.

Due to many more breakout rumors, unethical tactics, and questionable agendas, the project had to be stopped after only a few days. The Stanford Prison Study was a disaster that destroyed the lives of many men who would never look at their fellow man the same way again.

What the Press would say:

David Cronenberg once again delivers a majestically vibrant and psychologically profound film. His gentle touch as director revisits the deep psychological aspects of characters in past films like “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises.” Cronenberg crafts an intense portrait about the relationships between these men, and he directs their performances and guides the film into a masterful direction. Alfred Molina does a good job at creating a character that becomes lost in his prized experiment and hopes against all odds that it can work, and is completely devastated when the results might have failed. Among the large supporting cast of prisoners and guards, two actors of their respective sides are the standouts. For the prisoners, Jeremy Davies as the infamous Prisoner #416 is magnificent as a man who sees the unethical implications of this experiment and suffers through a great deal to try to prove his point. For the guards, Ethan Hawke piles on the evil carnation as the horribly aggressive guard “John Wayne,” a macho kind of guy who is the enforcer of harsh punishments. Hawke embodies this man with such a malicious personality that a slight stare from him sends chills down the spine. Cronenberg’s double duty as writer also comes in great supply with a screenplay that explores the deep connections made by the characters and their ultimate downfall when they are tested by the surrounding conditions. Peter Soschitzky’s dank and low key cinematography and Howard Shore’s eerie score add to the wonders of the film. The campaign consideration:

Best Picture
Best Director: David Cronenberg
Best Actor: Alfred Molina
Best Supporting Actor: Ethan Hawke
Best Supporting Actor: Jeremy Davies
Best Original Screenplay: David Cronenberg
Best Cinematography
Best Original Score

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