Having one of the most unique and interesting filmographies among contemporary American filmmakers, Michael Almereyda has always been a filmmaker I truly respected for his unwillingness to be categorized or contained. With his latest film, The Experimenter, Almereyda sets his sites on the famous social psychologist Stanley Milgram, a man who in the 1960s conducted a series of controversial behavioral experiments that attempted to examine human beings penchant for obedience. Michael Almereyda's Experimenter is a unique vision of what a biopic can and should be, being a film that is just as interested as understanding Milgram's obsession with authority and obedience as it is about the fascinating experiments that led him to fame. Following both Milgram's personal life and work life, Almereyda subtly paints a portrait of a character who is obsessed with understanding how civilized individuals can turn violent, as Milgram's Jewish dissent and sorrow associated with those monstrosities fuels his desire to understand how such violence and hate is possible. Institutionalized violence and how obedience is more common than individuality was what Milgram's research effectively proved, and I'd personally argue that all the personal attacks about his research stem more so from individuals unwillingness to accept the darker, sadder aspects of humanity than a true concern over the validity of his research. Humans need the illusion of independence and free choice, but what the film effectively captures is how we all, regardless of whether we like it or not, desire to fit in on some primal level. While the Experimenter's subject matter is beyond compelling, what makes the film stand out is Almereyda's unique treatment, using a great script and unique structure to tell a biopic that is for once interesting. From what I can only imagine was a shoe-string budget, Almereyda injects the film with a lot of energy, with playful use of green screens to illustrate sequences from the past, to routinely breaking the fourth wall ss Milgram himself narrarates the film to the audience, Almereyda has created a unique, playful, and engaging biopic that stands above most of the mundane, by-the-numbers biopics that are produced these days. Perhaps the film's greatest accomplishment is the fact that it made me want to invest more time in social psychology, with Almereyda delivering a unique, thought-provoking biopic that challenges the viewer to question themselves and humanity as a whole.
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