Review: ‘Game of Death’

The entrancing power of TV is explored in this Gallic documentary.

The entrancing power of TV is explored in Gallic documentary “Game of Death,” in which the makers stage a fake gameshow in which candidates cheerfully administer electroshocks to a (hidden) fellow participant. This 21st-century version of Yale’s Milgram experiment demonstrates the shocking aura of authority TV has for the John and Jane Does randomly selected to participate. Made, somewhat ironically, for the tube, nonfiction item caused a sensation when it aired in France this spring and is that rare docu that could be remade Stateside. Several territories, including Canada, have scooped up theatrical rights.

Social psychologist Jean-Leon Beauvois comments on and contextualizes the experiment’s findings, which show that a staggering number of participants continued to inflict shocks of up to 460 volts to another human being, despite clear — though faked — evidence of suffering from the latter. The TV-show setting and the-show-must-go-on argument were often cited as reasons for becoming a de facto executioner, even though candidates were not promised any prizes. Editing is not entirely smooth, torn between playing up suspense and analyzing findings, but otherwise tech credits are top-tier TV.

Game of Death

Documentary - France

Production

A Yami 2 production, in association with France 2. (International sales: Rezo Films, Paris.) Produced by Christophe Nick. Directed by Thomas Bornot, Gilles Amado, Alain-Michel Blanc. Written by Christophe Nick.

Crew

Camera (color, DV/HD), Jean-Robert Viallet, Octavio Esperito Santo; editor, Christophe Bouquet; music, Frank Williams, Denis Shuller, Bud. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 19, 2010. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Tania Young, Laurent Ledoyen, Denis Loubaton, Lucie Jousse, Julia Begasse, Jean-Leon Beauvois, Dominique Oberle, Didier Courbet, Yves Jeanneret. Narrator: Philippe Torreton.

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