Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Belko Experiment

A seminal study of the actions of a group of left-leaning German cops despatched to Ukraine to take part in the Nazi genocide of its Jewish population revealed something both significant and consistent about human nature: in any reasonably well-defined peer group of ten individuals asked to do something morally repugnant, one will refuse, eight will go along with it, and one will not only go along with it, but instead try to enhance the levels of repugnance as much as possible. This finding has been repeated numerous times in more experimental situations. 

Each of us would like to imagine that in the most telling of circumstances we’d turn out to be the one positive exception, but sadly in my experience of the white collar life, the signs have been that most of us have the potential to be that other one too. The pattern remains unchanged, but the make-up of the individuals corresponding to it can be more flexible. 

In The Belko Experiment the set-up is slightly different: when a group of roughly eighty American office workers is shut inside a Bogotá tower block and encouraged to commence compulsory redundancies in the most brutal of fashions, we find that there is one conscientious objector, one open-minded free-thinker, several stoners, a small group of homicidal maniacs and roughly sixty sheep. Plus one girl who’s just clumsy enough to kill another person by accident given this precise scenario. 

As Robbie Collin pointed out in his 5 Live review, the experimental nature of the methodology is compromised by the fact that the sample all have mini-bombs in their heads which can be exploded as punishment for non-compliance. 

And other than a COO who declares an intention to 'circle back', the designated office perv and the aforementioned spliff-heads, the possibilities for stereotyping are seriously under-explored here. 

Battle Royale for example, might be said to have adequately addressed the various types and tensions that exist in the Japanese education system, satirising to the nth degree the relentless competition therein. 

Here we get a COO stating than he will 'circle back' and someone being clubbed to death with a sellotape holder — the executive equivalent of the staple gun in one of those DIY warehouse melées — but few other nods to the environment and its archetypes. In fact, the people charged with doing the posters seemed to have a bit more fun with the concept. (See below.) 

I was rooting for the open-minded character, especially as she was played by the daughter of the world's most famous Guatemalan, Adria Arjona, but sadly the last hurdle proved tricky for her...though I'd say she met her fate more uncompromised than the eventual 'winner'.

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