It’s not possible to define or categorize the work of writer-director Michael Almereyda in simple terms. Turning in interesting, arresting film work since the early 1980s, across a number of disciplines, he moves between genres with ease and develops passionate projects. Up until now, his most well-known film has been 2000′s Hamlet, starring Ethan Hawke, although that may well change once his upcoming project, The Experimenter, is in the can.
Starring Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine), the film tells the story of famous social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who designed the Obedience Experiments at Yale University in 1961. The experiments observed the responses of people who were made to believe they were sending painful electric shocks to strangers. The producers of this independent project – Uri Singer, Fabio Golombek, Aimee Schoof and Isen Robbins – explained that The Experimenter will encompass much more than just one set of research, however:
“The experiments were about conformity and authority, and their implications continue to be deeply unsettling and resonant. But this was just the start of a wide-ranging career for Milgram, who also came up with the Small-World Experiment – the basis for Six Degrees Of Separation.”
With Sarsgaard in the role of Milgram, Winona Ryder (Black Swan) has been cast as Sasha Menkin – a student of his, and his object of affection. Though Ryder’s role sounds very much like the archetypal ‘love interest’ character, the choice of actress suggests that this is far more substantial. Ryder has spent her long career carefully picking projects that provide well-written and complex female characters – and there’s no reason to think this film would be any different.
Cameras are due to begin rolling on The Experimenter in New York on June 5, with a supporting cast featuring Dennis Haysbert (24), Jim Gaffigan (Going The Distance) and Josh Hamilton (American Horror Story). Hopefully, we’ll be seeing it on screening lists around the film festival circuit soon enough after that.