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We would like to invite you to participate in DAS EXPERIMENT.
As part of a psychological research project, you and nineteen other recruits will be divided up into prisoners and guards. In a controlled penitentiary-like environment, “Prisoners” are incarcerated and ordered to obey the rules, “Guards” are instructed to keep order. You will be thrown head-first into a two-week long examination of the effects of assigned roles, power and control, and you won’t be the same when it’s over. But it’s just a simulation. Or is it?
Moritz Bleibtreu (from “Run Lola Run” and one of Germany’s biggest stars) is Tarek (A.K.A. Prisoner # 77), an ex-journalist intrigued by the idea of going undercover for this experiment, positive the ensuing interactions will provide his editor with a fascinating story. At first, the prisoners treat their roles with detached humor and playfulness, and the guards treat theirs with nervous unease. But within hours, small conflicts and petty disputes force all twenty men deeper into their assigned roles. As these trivial skirmishes quickly escalate, the guards must explore any possible means to keep the prisoners in line.
After breaking box office records and rattling audiences throughout Germany, DAS EXPERIMENT was honored with the Audience Awards for Best Picture and Best Actor at the German Film Awards, where Moritz Bleibtreu also won a Grand Jury Prize in gold for artistic achievement. Based on the novel “Black Box” by Mario Giordano, DAS EXPERIMENT is that rare film that makes you wonder how you would behave on either side of the steel bars. The film was helmed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, who went on to receive the Best Director awards at the 2001 Montreal Film Festival and the Bavarian Film Awards respectively.
Tarek (Moritz Bleibtreu) is reading the newspaper in his taxi while waiting for his next fare. An ad suddenly catches his eye:
TEST PARTICIPANTS NEEDED
4000 DM FOR 14 DAYS
EXPERIMENT IN MOCK PRISON
Tarek is intrigued by the promise of a hefty sum of cash, but the ad also arouses his long dormant journalistic instincts. Tarek decides to visit the University Psychological Institute to investigate the opportunity. While there, he listens to an introductory talk from Dr. Jutta Grimm (Andrea Sawatzki), the scientific assistant for the experiment.
"The Experiment involves role-playing in a prison-like situation. You'll be randomly divided into groups of guards and prisoners. If you take part in the experiment as a prisoner, you'll be required to give up your private life and your rights as a citizen." Tarek becomes convinced he's uncovered a terrific story. He phones Ziegler, a newspaper editor and former employer. "Ten thousand, plus photos, no expenses" is Ziegler’s offer, which Tarek accepts. To document his undercover mission, Tarek secures a secret camera that is implanted into a pair of glasses.
Out of a large group of anonymous applicants, 20 finalists are chosen for the experiment. They include Schütte (Oliver Stokowski), who owns a newspaper stand where Tarek frequently buys cigarettes; Eckert (Timo Dierkes), an Elvis imitator; and Berus (Justus von Dohnànyi), an airport worker. Tarek is also chosen, though he had to hide his fear of enclosed spaces to prevent disqualification.
Later that day, Tarek drives his taxi through an intersection and crashes into the car of a young woman named Dora (Maren Eggert). Dazed but uninjured, she seems far less worried about the accident that’s just occurred than about the sudden death of her father (she had been at his funeral prior to the accident). Dora and Tarek end up spending a tender and passionate night together, and rapidly the two develop an intense intimacy. When Tarek tells Dora the next morning that he'll be taking part in the experiment, she warns him against it.
Tarek does not take her advice. In a university lecture hall the next day, he listens with his fellow participants to Professor Thon (Edgar Selge), the director of the experiment:
"The next two weeks will be a completely new experience. You will have to apply pressure and bear pressure. A few of you will do without basic human rights for the next two weeks. If anyone wants out, this is your last chance." Soon thereafter, the participants are divided up into guards and prisoners, and the daily routine of prison life begins. The guards’ first act is to instruct the prisoners to strip and shower. Then comes the guards’ first act of humiliation: they force to the prisoners to wear rough linen outfits without underwear. Already, the battle lines are being drawn.
The prisoners are led down narrow hallways to their cells. Tarek gets assigned to a cell with Joe (Wotan Wilke Möhring), an electrician, and Steinhoff (Christian Berkel), an enigmatic introvert. Bosch (Antoine Monot, Jr.), a guard, reads the rules:
1. Prisoners must only address each other by their prison numbers.
2. Prisoners must address guards as "Penitentiary Officer."
3. Prisoners must not to speak after "Lights out.”
4. Prisoners must eat their entire meals.
5. Prisoners must immediately obey every order given by the penitentiary officers.
6. Guards must punish prisoners for every violation.
They are not told what that punishment will be. "That will be made clear when the time comes," Kamps (Nicki von Tempelhoff) announces. Violence, it is emphasized by Professor Thon, is forbidden: "Whoever resorts to violence in any form will be immediately excluded from the experiment."
The first guard/prisoner conflict arises that night at dinner. Schütte, a slight, thin man, refuses to drink his milk, even after the guards insist he does. Unbeknownst to the guards, the man is lactose-intolerant. Tarek, angered by the guards’ refusal to listen to Schütte, comes to his friend’s aide by drinking the milk.
Humiliated, Eckert storms to the cells to set an example: he forces the sleeping Tarek to wake and do sit-ups. When Tarek refuses, Eckert ups the punishment to include Tarek’s two cellmates. From this moment on, the tone between the two sides becomes antagonistic, and Tarek, in pursuit of a hot story, consciously intensifies the pressure even more.
After their initial, very instinctive reactions, the participants begin slipping into their roles as guards and prisoners, as perpetrators and victims. A subtle choreography of feelings takes form in the mock prison, and the differences between play-acting and reality grow vague and unclear. The guards' initial uncertainty in their roles becomes a willingness to resort to violent means, and the instinct of self-defense gives way to a tendency towards open aggression. Berus, who has up until now pretty much kept himself out of the picture, begins to take on the role of a leader in this crisis situation.
The next conflict surfaces the following day when Eckert and Berus give Tarek a hard time during a check of the beds. Tarek turns the tables on them by locking them up in the cell, which releases a ferocious chorus of cheers among the other prisoners. But his triumph is a short one. The guards retaliate, taking control of the situation and humiliating the prisoners into submission. "As long as they don't say anything up there, we're doing the right thing. That's what they want, that something happens down here,” one of the guards says.
The use of force and the reactions to it build to a perilous climax as more and more violent incidents stack up. Anger, fear, hate, and desperation come to the forefront. There's a clear and severe conflict between Tarek and guards Berus and Eckert. As the pressure mounts, the first round of “weak“ participants are released from the experiment. While Professor Thon believes the rapid developments are making the experiment a success, Dr. Grimm becomes increasingly worried. She warns him of the danger in keeping the experiment going, but it’s all in the name of science. The line between simulation and reality becomes increasingly blurry for everyone involved, until the walls threaten to break down completely. Within a matter of days, none of the lives of the participants will ever be the same again.
DAS EXPERIMENT Cast
The Prisoners Tarek Fahd, Prisoner Nr. 77 MORITZ BLEIBTREU
The Scientists Professor Dr. Klaus Thon EDGAR SELGE
Dr. Jutta Grimm ANDREA SAWATZKI
Lars PHILIPP HOCHMAIR
The Others Dora MAREN EGGERT
Ziegler ANDRÉ JUNG
Hans UWE ROHDE
DAS EXPERIMENT Credits
Director OLIVER HIRSCHBIEGEL
Screenplay MARIO GIORDANO
based on the novel "Black Box" by MARIO GIORDANO
Casting AN DORTHE BRAKER
Original Score ALEXANDER VAN BUBENHEIM
Location Sound WOLFGANG WIRTZ
Sound Mixer MAX RAMMLER-ROGALL
Costume Design CLAUDIA BOBSIN
Prison Design ULI HANISCH
Art Director ANDREA KESSLER
Director of Photography RAINER KLAUSMANN
Editor HANS FUNCK
Production Manager KLAUS SPINNLER
Line Producer PHILIP EVENKAMP
Co-Producer BENJAMIN HERRMANN
Producer NORBERT PREUSS
Oliver Hirschbiegel read Mario Giordano’s novel Black Boxin a single night, and knew immediately that he'd found the ideal material for his first feature film. "It was exactly what I had been looking for -- an intense, suspenseful story set believably in Germany. One wouldn't have to pretend that it was set somewhere else. And the characters in the novel were very vivid. Each was fleshed out with incredible verve and clarity.”
Acclaimed German actor Moritz Bleibtreu (Run Lola Run) had known Hirschbiegel for years, and had long planned to work with him. He agreed to take on the lead role of Tarek long before the first draft of the screenplay was even complete. "I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of DAS EXPERIMENT. The film touches on the most important questions of how people live together, handle authority, and take responsibility for their own actions. These are precisely the mechanisms that lead to war. Besides, Oliver and I had known each other quite a while and we'd always planned to do something together."
Once Bleibtreu -- a well-known star in Germany -- was on board, the project moved forward quickly. Giordano had taken a stab at the screenplay early in the process, and Don Bohlinger, an American screenwriting consultant, was brought in later to do a polish. At the same time, out of sheer passion for the story, writer Christoph Darnstädt began working on his own version.
Hirschbiegel, Darnstädt and Bohlinger eventually decided to lock themselves up in a hotel suite in Cologne to sort out the strengths of the various individual versions and to work out a single, homogeneous final draft. "It was the best screenplay experience I have ever had," remembers Hirschbiegel. "We sat together every day for 15 hours each day, hammering out the best possible screenplay we could. Bohlinger was responsible for structure, Darnstädt kept an eye on the characters, and I was the apostle for the experiment and believability."
Hirschbiegel decided early on that, with the exception of his central hero, he wanted to cast unknown faces in all the additional roles to ensure that the audience would relate equally to each of the characters. "I wanted each figure to be slowly revealed, stripped, and skinned before the eyes of the audience. Well-known faces would have stood in the way of that." And since casting was to be conducted not on the basis of individual performances but on the way the actors performed together, Hirschbiegel had actors audition in large groups of up to ten at a time, and also encouraged them to exchange roles. "The secret of filmmaking is to always stay flexible and to be open to new ideas and proposals." Through this process, Christian Berkelm, originally slated to play the role of Kamps, ended up being cast as Steinhoff. And Oliver Stokowksi, who was to play Bosch, wound up with the role of Schütte.
Hirschbiegel decided early on that he wanted to create a raw feel to the film by minimizing the use of artificial illumination and relying instead on the set’s existing light. Rainer Klausmann, the cameraman with whom Hirschbiegel had been working with for years, developed the overall concept. For night lighting, he suggested yellow key lights reflected off the ceiling. For day lighting, he proposed strong bright neon lights reflecting off the white walls.
The mock prison set was built in the cellar of a Cologne cable factory. Hirschbiegel’s beginnings as a graphic artist came in quite handy, as the design of the set was based on his graphic interpretation of Giordano’s descriptions in Black Box. Designer Uli Hanisch was chosen to help realize Hirschbiegel’s vision. "I wanted a young, fresh set designer who didn't have too many films under his belt yet had enough experience to take on a really large set. Uli had just done superb work on Tom Tykwer's The Warrior and the Princess. He's very analytical and has a wonderful way of seeing things from a cool distance, which was ideal for the creation of this set.”
For both the actors and the crew, the scenes in the mock prison – shot in chronological order - were an extraordinary physical and psychological ordeal. "I was banking, of course, on the effect of this hermetic situation," Hirschbiegel admits. "If you see only prison bars for 12-14 hours a day and no daylight, a certain fascinating dynamic develops. The intensity you see in the film was clearly palpable on the shoot."
According to actor Christian Berkel, “it was, in every respect, an extraordinary experience. When you are stuck in a dank cellar for 15 hours each day and are devoid of any sunlight, you very quickly lose all sense of time. And throughout the shoot, each actor was on set at virtually every moment. Normally, you're with just two or three people; they leave and others come and everyone's there for only a few days at a time. We all just assumed that after 14 days, tremendous tensions would build up among the cast. The fact that this didn't happen is a tribute to Oliver, who always kept things calm and treated everyone equally. If we had had a director who was moody, impulsive, or just simply enjoyed playing people against each other, the situation could have easily been an explosive one."
Nonetheless, Hirschbiegel does quietly admit that he did help form certain constellations of sympathies and antipathies among the actors for the good of the film. The lines between the actors and their roles seemed to grow thin almost organically. "Sometimes it was really quite disturbing." Hirschbiegel remembers, "We began to realize that the distribution of the roles was having an effect on the reality of the shoot. The guards and the prisoners ultimately became two separate factions who would eat lunch only with each other and even compete against one another. Throughout the shoot, I would interview the actors about how they felt about their upcoming scenes. When I realized that it was next to impossible to tell who it was that was answering me – the actor or the character - I became truly shocked."
At the same time, Hirschbiegel, too, was slipping from the role of director into that of one of the film’s scientists: "Sometimes I would assign tasks and then watch to see what would happen, or I would let a scene run on without telling the actors that I had stopped filming. For example, I would tell an actor ‘guard’ via walkie-talkie, 'Go in there and have them do sit-ups!' or 'Call them to order!”
“It was an amazing and somewhat unsettling experience to actually sit there at the monitor and watch them carrying the order through. I found it quite disturbing because I realized how easy it would be see the actors as guinea pigs in a cage and for me to say 'a little bit more, a little bit more.” Hirschbiegel was also surprised to see that the punishment the guards dreamed up at his request was often far more severe and gruesome than what had originally been planned in the screenplay. "Lars Gärtner, for example, who plays Renzel, said to me 'I'm going to go in there and tell 53 that his son is deathly ill in the hospital.' It's just unbelievable what happens in such a tense situation! While disturbing, this dynamic reassured me that the story really was in fact believable."
After almost 30 days of shooting in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the mock prison, the team completed principal photography in Zandvoort, Holland, where the scenes in Dora's father's villa were filmed.
Dora, the only character to live outside of the prison, is the female counterpoint to the raw masculinity evidenced throughout the film. “The part of Dora concerns issues of humanity and tender emotions," confirms Maren Eggert, who readily accepted when she was offered a role. "The other parts of the story are about feelings as well, but this is something tender, a bit lighter, something to offer balance to the story. I was really very excited about this script because I think it's very unusual for a German film and because Dora also plays a very special role in it."
The fact that the story is based on a book presented a certain responsibility for Hirschbiegel: "It was important for me not to betray it, to use it merely as a vehicle in order to tell an exciting story." In his preparations, he went back again and again to behavioral reports and videos and took themes which were not part of Giordano's novel. The guards’ use of fire extinguishers to put down the prisoners' revolt is one such example. Hirschbiegel also questioned psychologists and psychiatrists about what happens to people on the edge and about claustrophobia: "Everything that happens in the film was to be believable, possible, thinkable."
After a long series of television films, DAS EXPERIMENT is your first feature film. Was this a big change for you in terms of your working methods?
The advantage with television is that you're all but guaranteed to reach at least two to three million people, which isn't all that usual when it comes to the cinema. Other than that, working on a feature film takes longer because everyone approaches the work with more respect, which I'm not so wild about. I'm pretty impatient and I like to work fast. The 35mm camera is bulkier than a Super 16 and harder to move. In general, the set up and all the efforts associated with it are bigger. You can't just spontaneously shoot from the hip.
What was it about the book that sparked your interest? Every good story tells us something about people. In all my films, it's been important that, in the development of the characters, people go through learning processes and apply what they've learned and that they're in a situation that forces them to take a stand. This is required of many of the figures in the novel. Also, it was very important to me that it would be an exciting story that takes place in Germany with German characters who don't have to act like they were in France or America or England.
It's pretty rare in Germany to see a film like yours that tells a consistently exciting story developed on the characters and a sense of place. Why is that, do you think? Storytelling is simply not one of the Germans' great strengths. We're a land of poets and thinkers. Except for Fassbinder, my mentors are not German directors, but rather, the Americans -- Huston, Hawks, Hitchcock, Wilder. Whenever I'm unsure of what to do, I ask myself: what would old Hawks have done?
Would you ever take part in an experiment like this? Not since I've made the film! Before the film though, absolutely. I'm extremely interested in the line between fantasy and reality. Everyone knows how it is; when little boys play cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, it becomes real very quickly. You'll find this especially among grown men!
Your work centers again and again on the point at which the hero has to decide whether or not he'll take responsibility for his actions... I think that's pure coincidence. I'm simply interested in telling stories in such a way that the audience has no way out -- suspenseful stories in which people go through a certain development. Storytelling is the oldest craft known to humankind, going back thousands of years to the days when they still sat around campfires.
The figure of Professor Thon definitely has characteristics of the wild scientist who loses all sense of his limits in the heat of research.
I don't find it all that wild or strange. It's in the nature of research to take risks. If it were always so easy to say, "stop," then 90 percent of the catastrophes in history would never have happened. An end can be brought to every situation if reason is the determining factor, but in all of human history, there are very few examples of this happening. Instead, egocentrism, a loss of the sense of reality, feelings of duty, or religious zealotry usually win out. When you lead an expedition and fight your way through the ice for four straight weeks, you don't stop just before you reach your goal. If you want to find something out, you go on. I don't think it's crazy -- just human.
You introduced the camera that Tarek takes into the prison. It wasn't in Mario Giordano's book... I'd read an article about these cameras that were hidden in eyeglasses. They're used in surgery and espionage. That's what gave me the idea that it would be a wonderful tool for Tarek to work with. The problem I had was that he didn't have a tool, not even a pen to work with, so we built that into the screenplay.
This use of video material is very popular at the moment in films... In times of increasing uncertainty, images are simply a way of capturing something or even oneself in order to help explain the monstrosities of the world. When you film something, you create a certain sense of order.
Doesn't the camera itself sometimes create uncertainties, as in Antonioni's BLOW UP, for example?
It's difficult to draw the line. If a journalist sees a soldier get shot through the lens of a camera, he won't do anything because he's looking through the viewfinder and not with his own eyes. He's filming what's going on. But if he doesn't have a camera, he'll go over and yell out, "Stop! Stop!" For Tarek, the moment comes when everything, partly from his own doing, gets out of hand. He goes over to Schütte, puts the glasses away and talks to him, encourages him.
Did Moritz Bleibtreu always video Tarek's images himself? Yes, and he also has a credit as a video camera operator. The camera really is the way you see it in the film, though we set a camera with a somewhat higher resolution into the framework for the eyeglasses.
What does the camera mean to you as a director?
For me, it's a means to an end. A lot of directors are very technically oriented and work a lot with special effects. I prefer the work with the actors; that for me is the more important part.
Were you worried about working with such a large ensemble of relatively equally important actors at the same time? Sure, I was working on the screenplay up to the day before we started shooting, and so I didn't have much time to prepare for the shoot. Suddenly, you're this Centurian standing in front of his troops one morning.
Do you see a relationship to the television project “Big Brother?” Sure. In both cases, there are observation cameras, but the comparison doesn't hold up much beyond that. With “Big Brother,” the participants walk into a container and direct themselves; they simulate reality. Everyone acts as if it was real, but in truth, it's less real than a well-told story. In our case, these are perfectly normal people who very consciously say, "I'm now playing the role of a guard." There isn't much room for playing anything above and beyond that. As a prisoner, you definitely think twice before opening your mouth and risking 20 sit-ups. Such situations don't come about in “Big Brother.” Besides, I don't even want to know what it'd look like if our experiment were to go on for 100 days instead of just five.
Why did you make the film so serious after all and ultimately escalate to murder?
We simply thought through to the end of the spiral of violence. People do kill each other for a wide variety of reasons -- jealousy, for example. A decision is made in a moment as to whether or not someone dies. The consequences of having people flip and slowly lose their grip on reality can be shown in a wonderfully exemplary way by these means.
The line between the game and fiction is a theme in the film; in what ways did it affect the shoot? As the director, you're always the captain. When you've got 20 men in a room like that, the captain quickly takes over from the director, almost to the point of being a sort of general. And when you realize that you've come into a situation like that as a director, when you're sitting there in front of a monitor, watching your actors almost as you would guinea pigs, it's pretty scary.
During the shoot, you listened a lot to the soundtrack for Fight Club. How much of an inspiration was that for the film? In retrospect, the film was very much an influence because it takes men seriously as men and never ridicules them for their sheer ridiculousness. Usually you expect men to be strong and upright. But there's often no place for a hard killer who's also a tender lover. In FIGHT CLUB, as in my film, there's a greater variety in the characters of the men.
One might get the idea that the only reason you filmed in Cologne was the sponsorship? No, for me, Cologne is a very believable setting for an experiment like that. It's just right that it takes place in North Rhine Westphalia. In the book, it was Düsseldorf, which I don't think is quite as sexy a motif as Cologne. Cologne is a warm, comfortable city, and you can just imagine that, with a dash of naiveté, something like that would be taking place there in some cellar. It would be more believable than Munich or Hamburg, cities that would have given the film a completely different color. And Berlin is just too hard and cold.
For whom do you make films?
For as many people as possible and for as many different age groups as possible. The challenge I love taking on is to tell universal stories so universally that they're understood all around the globe. In the age of mass media, it's all about reaching as many people as possible and moving them. And I think that this film has a truth to it young people are yearning for these days. Our social lives in western cultures are becoming more and more complex and complicated, and all the technological progress is happening at the cost of fundamental, idealistic values. This is what gives young people, who have always been smarter than the rest of the population, an intuitive desire for truth and reality. Our film is not a speculative show based on effects. It's a real story! I'm also not interested in merely arousing controversy, but rather, real conversation. For me, what I do has nothing to do with art. I'm not an artist anymore. I'm a storyteller!
MORITZ BLEIBTREU (Tarek Fahd) Moritz Bleibtreu first made his mark five years ago when he appeared as Kai Wiesinger's cute but not too bright lover in Rainer Kaufman's surprise German hit Stadtgesprach (Talk of the Town). Since then he has become one of the most sought after stars in German cinema. Bleibtreu left school after the eleventh grade and made his way to America to study acting. At age 21, he launched his career at the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg and in small television productions. After a small but potent role as the introverted gangster Abdul in Knocking on Heaven’s Door, his breakthrough role came in Tom Tykwer's cult hit Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run), as the man who waits in desperation for his girlfriend Lola to help get him out of trouble. In Liebe Deine Nachste (Love Your Neighbor), he played a company man without scruples who allows his head to be turned by a country girl from the Salvation Army. In Luna Papa, he played a mentally-challenged man injured in war who can communicate with others only through wordless noises. In Fandango, he hid his eyes behind dark sunglasses in order to play a cynical DJ, and in Fatih Akin's Im Juli (In July), he played a lovesick teacher.
CHRISTIAN BERKEL (Steinhoff) The native Berliner studied at the German Film and Television Academy and was a private student of acting teachers Stefan Wigger, Jürgen von Alten and Margret Langen. He then worked with, among others, Claus Peymann, Rudolf Noelte and Alexander Lang at many prominent German-language theaters in Düsseldorf, Bochum, Munich, Vienna and Berlin. He's also taken roles in more than 50 television productions and can be seen in a variety of international film productions.
OLIVER STOKOWSKI (Schütte)
Oliver Stokowski studied music (double-bass, electric bass, and piano) at the Academy for Music and Art in Graz, Austria. Following appearances at the Staatstheater in Hanover and the Residenztheater in Munich, he took on roles at the Burgtheater in Vienna and at the Salzburg Festival. He first screen role was in Dominik Graf's 1988 film Tiger, Lowe, Panther (Tiger, Lion, Panther), and he has acted in various cinematic and television productions ever since.
WOTAN WILKE MöHRING (Joe)
Wotan Wilke Möhring didn't take the normal route to acting. After his training as an electrician, he studied communications at the Academy of Art in Berlin and lived for two years in New York. He's a co-founder of the music groups Red Lotus and DAF. In 1996, he released the single "ich glaub ich f... dich später" ("i think i'll f... you later") and produced film music. Since 1997, he's appeared in television and film productions.
JUSTUS VON DOHNàNYI (Berus) After studying at the Academy for Music and Art in Hamburg, Justus von Dohnànyi performed in theaters in Frankfurt, Zurich and Hamburg. Besides a variety of appearances on television, he has acted in German and international films. He worked with Oliver Hirschbiegel in Todfeinde (Deadly Enemies).
TIMO DIERKES (Eckert) Even before studying acting, Timo Dierkes founded a theater group as well as a rock group, singing in bands, acting in amateur theaters and working as a DJ. He completed his studies at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna with an outstanding diploma and won an engagement at the Residenztheater in Munich where he could be seen in over 30 roles
between 1993 and 1999. He's also appeared in a variety of film and television productions. Since mid-1999, he's been working as a freelance actor.
NICKI VON TEMPELHOFF (Kampus)
Nicki von Tempelhoff grew up in Holland before he returned to Germany at the age of 15. He took part in workshops and took on roles as an extra at the Ulm Theater and studied acting at the Otto Falckenberg Schule in Munich. Besides his engagements at the Bühnen der Stadt in Cologne, at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg and, since 1999, at the Burgtheater in Vienna, he has played a variety of roles on television. DAS EXPERIMENT is his first feature film for the cinema.
ANTOINE MONOT, JR. (Bosch) In 1993, Monot, Jr. was expelled from the Theater College in Zurich and debuted on the screen in JAZZ, a European co-production. His breakthrough came with his role as the automobile mechanic in ABSOLUTE GIGANTEN (GIGANTICS). Since 1999, Monot, Jr. has been the founder and CEO of Creative Artists Management AG, an agency for actors based in Munich.
EDGAR SELGE (Professor Thon) Edgar Selge took the long, roundabout route to acting via music (classical piano) and philosophy. After completing his studies at the Otto Falckenberg Schule in Munich, he first concentrated on theater. Following engagements at the Schiller Theater in Berlin, and after 20 years at the Kammerspiele in Munich, he appeared in guest roles in Zurich, Vienna, Berlin, Salzburg and Munich. After several roles in films for television, he became famous for the role of the one-armed Commissioner Tauber in Polizeiruf 110 (Emergency Call 110). In the early 90’s, he was an increasing presence in the cinema, appearing, for example, in Rossini. He received the German Film Award as Best Supporting Actor for Drei Chinesen Mit Dem Kontrabass (Three Chinese With a Double Bass).
ANDREA SAWATZKI (Dr. Jutta Grimm) Andrea Sawatzki studied at the New Munich Acting School and, from 1988 to 1992, performed in theaters in Stuttgart, Wilhelmshaven and Munich. Since 1988, she has appeared in approximately 30 television films and series, and since 1995, has acted in cinematic films as well, taking on, among other roles, the character of the decisive yet confused, warmly comic yet truly desperate lover in Volker Einrauch's debut, Die Mutter Des Killers (The Killer’s Mother).
MAREN EGGERT (Dora)
The actress, born in 1974, attended the Otto Falckenberg School in Munich from 1994 to 1998. Besides her steady engagements at the Schauspielhaus in Bochum and at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, she has appeared in a variety of projects for television and film since 1996.
OLIVER HIRSCHBIEGEL (Director) Oliver Hirschbiegel was born in 1957 in Hamburg. His early life was shaped in a private school which had strong anti-authoritarian principles. He took these principles so seriously that he ending up leaving the school early to become a cook at sea. Following that adventure, he began studying painting and graphics at the Hamburg Art Academy where, under the direction of Sigmar Polke, he turned his attention to photography, video and film. A series of installations and performance art pieces led him to an interest in directing, and with video and filmmaker Gabor Body, he developed the video magazine Infermental.
In 1986, he sold his first screenplay Das Go! Projekt (The Go! Project) under the condition that ZDF, the German television network, would allow him to direct it as well. "Suddenly, I was a film director! My heroes were directors like Hitchcock, Huston and Hawks. I actually sketched out North by Northwest from the first camera set-up to the last; it was basically a storyboard for the entire film. I was trying to figure out how to tell a story with images. How do you have someone come in through a door? How do you shoot an airplane attacking a man? How do you shoot a car ride -- where do you cut and what do you cut to? That was a good exercise, and it worked! I did the same thing with sequences from Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously, Sidney Pollack's Three Days of the Condor, John Schlesinger's Marathon Man, and everything by Ridley Scott, particularly Alien and Blade Runner.”
Das Go! Projekt got good reviews and Hirschbiegel began to receive more offers. In the following years, he directed a wide range of award winning thrillers and crime stories for television, as well as 14 episodes of the television series “Kommisar Rex” and two stories for the series “Tatort (Scene of the Crime).” DAS EXPERIMENT is his debut as a feature film director.
MARIO GIORDANO (Screenplay) After studying psychology and then receiving various writing scholarships, Mario Giordano has been working as a freelance writer in Hamburg since 1994. He has written novels and books for children and young adults, among them, Ein Huhn ein Ei und viel Geschrei (A Chicken and an Egg and Lots of Screams) and Pablos Geschichte - Picassos Leben (Pablo's Story - Picasso's Life).
DON BOHLINGER (Screenplay Revision) Following his studies in directing and screenwriting in the Film Department at Columbia University, Don Bohlinger has been writing screenplays since 1986. Besides his practical film work, he has taught at a variety of American universities and European film schools. He worked with Oliver Hirschbiegel on Todfeinde (Deadly Enemies).
CHRISTOPH DARNSTäDT (Screenplay Revision)
Christoph Darnstädt studied comparative literature and the novel at the Free University in Berlin. He then worked as a screenwriter, co-screenwriter and a script editor on various television series and films such as Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten, Hinter Gittern (Good Times, Bad Times, Series/Grundy-UFA) and Der Junge aus dem Kuhlschrank (The Boy From the Refrigerator) as well as BERLIN, Abschnitt 40 (RTL crime film). His work on DAS EXPERIMENT is his first for a cinema production.
ULI HANISCH (Set Design) Born in 1967 in Nuremberg, Uli Hanisch worked as a graphic artist for various advertising agencies following his studies in visual communication in Düsseldorf. In 1987, he began working with Christoph Schlingensief. As a set designer and prop master, he worked on a series of television films, series and the Harald Schmidt Show, and his work for the cinema includes German productions by Helge Schneider and Tom Tykwer as well as large European productions. He has often worked alongside Andrea Kessler since 1994.
ANDREA KESSLER (Set Design) Andrea Kessler, born in 1965 in Wuppertal, came to the cinema via advertising. After an internship and work in an ad agency in Wuppertal, she studied communication design and began in 1993 as an interior and exterior prop master for a variety of film productions. Before DAS EXPERIMENT, she had already worked with Uli Hanisch several times and is often called on as a painter for surfaces and material structures.
CLAUDIA BOBSIN (Costumes) Following her studies in fashion and design at St. Martin's College in London, Claudia Bobsin first worked as a stylist in fashion and advertising photography and for music videos. Since 1970, she's worked as a costume designer and has worked with Oliver Hirschbiegel on DAS Urteil (The Verdict) and Todfeinde (Deadly Enemies).
RAINER KLAUSMANN (Cinematography) Klausmann has been cinematographer on over twenty feature film and TV projects and won his first Bavarian Film Award for his work on DAS EXPERIMENT. He got his start as an assistant cameraman as such films as Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo.
Academy Awards 2002
- Germany’s Official Entry for Best Foreign Language Film
Montreal World Film Festival
- Best Director (Oliver Hirschbiegel)
European Film Awards
Nominee – Best European Film 2001
German Film Award ("The Golden Lola")
- Best Actor (Moritz Bleibtreu)
- Best Supporting Actor (Justus von Dohnànyi)
- Best Art Direction (Andrea Kessler, Uli Hanisch)
- Best Film
- Best Actor (Moritz Bleibtreu)
Bergen International Film Festival
- Audience Award Winner
Courmayeur Noir in Festival
- Special Jury Award
Seoul -- European Film Festival
- Audience Award Winner
Bavarian Film Awards
- Best Director (Oliver Hirschbiegel)
- Best Cinematography (Rainer Klausman)
- Best Screenplay (Mario Giordano, Christoph Darnstaedt and Don Bohlinger)